HOUSTON - Two goals that were as dramatic as they were late lifted the Rice soccer team to a 2-1 overtime victory over visiting Vanderbilt Friday evening at Holloway Field in Houston.
The Owls were playing well from the start, holding a 6-4 advantage in shots with a 3-1 margin in corner kicks in the first half, but Vandy tallied the lone goal of the period in the 37th minute. Cherrelle Jarrett converted on a header from a tricky angle while running out of real estate outside (but dangerously close) to the left post.
Rice continued to apply the offensive pressure with ten more shots and an eye-opening eight corner kicks in the second half, but the Commodores continued the defensive blockade. Still trailing 1-0 and with just 39 seconds left in regulation, Rice was desperate but had a chance when the ball was bounding loose inside the Vandy keeper's box. As the Commodores frantically attempted to clear the ball away Owl sophomore Jenny Fichera, a defender by trade who now had come forward to provide an added offensive presence as time ticked away, alertly played a deflection and found the back of the Vandy net on the right side. The goal was the first of Fichera's collegiate career and made it a brand new night at 1-1.
Clearly, Rice was still riding the emotional lift as the overtime period began a short time later. Less than a minute into overtime, Owl junior Lauren Hughes launched the team's 12th corner kick of the night into a crowd in front of the Vanderbilt goal. There were plenty of players wanting to get or clear the ball, but it was 5-foot-4 freshman Nia Stallings who came up big. The San Antonio native headed Hughes' corner in for her first collegiate goal and a dramatic 2-1 victory.
In a game-time span of less than two minutes off the stadium clock, the Owls had gone from a near home loss to a second-straight win over an SEC power (including a 1-0 road win at LSU last weekend). Rice (now 3-1-1) finished the night with a 17-10 lead in shots and a 12-3 advantage in corner kicks. Vanderbilt is now 3-2-0 overall.
Rice next meets state foe Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Sunday at 1 pm at home at Holloway Field.