Sept. 10, 2010
HOUSTON -- The forward tandem of Hope Ward and Jessica Howard combined for two first half goals in a swarming Rice attack, and senior goalkeeper Catherine Fitzsimmons was solid in the net in her first start of the season to pace the Owls' soccer team to a 2-1 victory over visiting Texas-San Antonio Friday evening at the Rice Soccer Stadium.
Ward and Howard combined for 14 of Rice's final tally of 33 shot attempts on the night, the seventh-highest single game team total in school history. The Blue & Gray peppered the UTSA goal with 18 shots in the first half and added another 15 in the second on the way to the team's second-straight win. Rice moved back to .500 for the year at 3-3-0 while the Roadrunners fell to 4-3-0.
The Owls were on the attack early and Ward opened the scoring with her first goal of the year. In the game's 11th minute the junior from Kingwood, Tex., fielded a throw-in at the top of the 18 and quickly turned on a UTSA defender. Before the Roadrunner defense could adjust, Ward blasted away on a long attempt that first rattled off the left post before deflecting in to the back of the net.
"It was one of the things we had worked on in practice, finding ways to get open and working together to get open," Ward said. "I thought I had a chance so I took the shot. I know I had been getting some assists and that's great, but it felt good to get a goal because it's been a while. We just need some more of them, but were working together so we'll get there."
Ward, who had built a 12-to-1 assists-to-goals ratio over the last two-plus years, notched her first goal since her freshman year in 2008. Rice was in front 1-0, but the Owls continued to try and stretch the margin. In the 37th minute, freshman Jordan McCray sprinted down the left wing and played a cross into traffic a few yards in front of the goal. The pass found fellow freshman Howard, who converted on a quick shot attempt that sailed past the UTSA keeper from close range. Howard's second career goal, along with McCray's second career assist, put Rice in front 2-0 at the intermission.
"Jordan did a phenomenal job, she put the ball right there where I needed just one touch," Howard said. "We've got a lot of freshmen playing right now so we're still learning (about playing at the college level). We're growing, we just need to get a little more consistent."
Rice was close to matching its shot attempts in the second stanza, but UTSA would not go away so easy. The Roadrunners took six of their nine shots in the second half and in the 66th minute freshman midfielder Anka Grotle played to senior Laurel Dierking outside the 18. Dierking bounced a long attempt off the crossbar for her third goal of the season and a 2-1 margin, where scoring ended.
It was the only score allowed by Fitzsimmons, who made three saves in the victory. The Owls held an 11-2 advantage in corner kicks and finished with nine shots on-goal.
"Where we did a nice job of getting forward and taking shots, part of execution is getting shots on-goal, making their keeper work a little bit more and finishing with goals," said Rice head coach Chris Huston. "We worked to give ourselves some decent shot opportunities, but we didn't do as much as we could have with those opportunities. We got the win for result we wanted, but I told the team that executing and finishing was going to be critical. It would be critical for this game tonight and each of the next couple of games against some talented teams, starting with this Sunday afternoon."
Rice is right back out on the road for their next game on Sunday (Sept. 12). The Owls meet Big 12 power Oklahoma in Norman, Okla., at 1 pm.