Sept. 18, 2010
HOUSTON -- The No. 9 ranked BYU soccer team scored the lone goal of the game in the closing minutes of the first half and battled in the second to claim a narrow 1-0 win over the Rice Owls before a vocal, season-high crowd of 1,047 Saturday evening at the Rice Soccer Stadium.
The Owls' week began like no other week in the 10-year history of the program and still had powerhouse BYU waiting at the end. It was Rice, however, that set the tone early against the Top 10 opponent by taking five of the first eight shots along with three solid chances on corner kicks in the game's first 30 minutes. The Blue & Gray was stride-for-stride with a Cougar team that was undefeated and had already claimed victories over two Top 20 teams.
"I've never been more proud of these girls," said Rice Interim Head Coach Nicky Adams. "To come out here and give everything they could with as much heart and passion, and with a tremendous amount of teamwork from all ends, was just phenomenal. When you have a ranked opponent coming on to your home turf you have to play hard from the moment the whistle blows. We talked about how we have to set the tempo right from the beginning.
"I thought our back line did an excellent job of clearing away threats when they need to, and finding our open player in the midfield to go forward," she added. "BYU has some very good athletes and is ranked for a reason. We were right there. I know we can build on a game like this."
As time was ticking away to what looked like might be a scoreless first half, BYU made the most of an opportunity to find the back of the Rice net. In the 44th minute Auna Doria brought the ball toward the Owl goal from the left end-line and passed it backward to her teammate Lynda Hercules. The freshman forward from Plano, Tex., converted on a quick shot attempt from close range to score what proved to be the game-winning goal.
Rice senior keeper Meghan Erkel started in goal and responded with six saves. The Owls were led in shots by true freshman Jessica Howard's three attempts, including two on-goal. The Owls were resilient playing without the services of standout midfielder Kate Edwards, the team's leading scorer who has been sidelined with an injury. Prior to this week Edwards had started every game in her Rice career, a total of 65-straight dating back to her freshman season of 2007 for the eighth-longest total in school history. Not only is she the team's leading scorer this season, the Westlake Village, Calif., native is the team's active leader in career goals with 19 (4th all-time), third in career shots (158), and tied for sixth with five in game-winning goals.
With the Owls in striking distance due to playing hard and together, the team needed only three subs for the duration of the contest. Six Rice players, including Erkel, Hope Ward and Julia Barrow, as well as starting defenders Lauren LaGro, Amy Beger and Hayley Williams, played the full 90 minutes.
"We're tired, but it's a good kind of tired because we know we gave it our all," said Ward. The junior forward from Kingwood, Tex., had a shot after a corner kick go just high in the 29th minute, and another strike deflected by a Cougar defender in the 58th minute. "We've been through a lot and I think we just wanted to play soccer tonight."
BYU finished the contest with a 15-8 lead in shots and held a 6-4 edge in corner kicks. The Owls fell to 3-5-0 on the season while the Cougars improved to 7-0-1.
Rice's current homestand lasts into October and the rugged degree of difficulty is holding fast. The Blue & Gray begins Conference USA league play next weekend starting with a 7 pm match against longtime rival Tulsa on Friday (Sept. 24). The Owls then host SMU on Sept. 26 at 1 pm.
The game's box score is available at the above link.