HOUSTON -- Rice senior Lauren Hughes had a goal and an assist, and true freshman Annie Walker added a goal on an acrobatic, flying header to pace the Owls soccer team to a 2-1 victory over visiting SEC foe Arkansas late Sunday evening in Houston.
Arkansas controlled the tempo in the first half holding an 11-5 advantage in shots, but the Owls were first on the scoreboard via a counterattack just before the intermission. In the 41st minute Rice deflected a volley and Hughes swooped-in to claim the midfield carom. The senior from Ontario, Canada, and the program's leader for career goals and points decided from there to create something on her own. Hughes brought the ball to just outside the 18 and then let loose a hard low rocket that zipped into the Razorback goal through a small opening on the left side. The score was Hughes' team-leading fourth-goal of the season and the 36th of her collegiate career.
With Hughes and a couple of other dynamic players on the Owl roster, the Rice Athletics Department has been using the hashtag #FlyWithUs on its social media platforms. Rookie Annie Walker seemed to take the campaign literally.
In the 54th minute, the freshman from Grand Blanc, Mich., took possession of the ball deep in Owl territory and dribbled through traffic up the middle of the field. After passing the center-circle, Walker led a long pass to Hughes sprinting up the left sideline. As Hughes began to draw almost the full attention of the Razorback defense, she crossed a line-drive back to Walker now hustling into the keeper's box. The pass was only a few feet off the ground, but Walker was all-in -- laying out while diving head first for the ball. Like a near-textbook execution of a classic soccer sequence, Walker's header beat the diving Razorback keeper to reach the back of the net.
Walker's first career goal stretched the margin to 2-0, but there was still a lot of minutes left to play and Arkansas would not go away so easy. The Razorbacks continued to apply offensive pressure and soon struck for a goal in the 78th minute. The Owls had trouble successfully clearing three-consecutive Hog corner kicks, and on the third Alexandra Fisher found Ashleigh Ellenwood in the keeper's box, who made it a 2-1 game with her fourth goal of the season.
All the way to the closing seconds, where Arkansas brought the keeper forward for the team's 11th corner kick of the night, the Owls had to battle to hold-on. The Razorbacks finished the night with an 11-8 lead in corner kicks and a 24-8 advantage in shots. Rice goalkeeper Zoe Pochobradsky finished the night with six big saves and the team led in the category that matters-most to improve to 4-1-1 on the young season. The Blue & Gray also stretched its current unbeaten streak to five-straight matches.
Rice has closed out the current homestand and plays each of its next four matches on the road. The Owls next play at Dayton on Sept. 11, followed by Miami-Ohio on Sept. 13.