Sept. 17, 2011
HOUSTON - Rice senior midfielder Nikki Storness scored the game-winning goal in double-overtime to lift the Rice soccer team to a come-from-behind 3-2 non-conference victory over visiting Western Kentucky Saturday night at the Owls' soccer stadium in Houston.
After Rice opened the scoring with a Jessica Howard goal in the 19th minute, Western Kentucky tied the contest with a goal by Mallory Outerbridge in the 32nd minute. Outerbridge then helped WKU take the lead in the second half when her corner kick found teammate Torrie Lange in the 56th minute. Lange scored from close range to put the Hilltoppers in front 2-1. The deficit had the full attention of Rice head coach Nicky Adams.
"I thought we started the game really on fire, creating five shots in the first five minutes and Jessica getting us on the board fairly early," said coach Adams. "We got a little complacent after that goal, and had a let-down in the second half to fall behind. "We told the team, 'we're creating opportunities and we have to stay positive,'"the head coach added. "We had some changes in some positions tonight and it went well. We were able to attack in numbers.
The lead did not last very long. In the 59th minute Jessica Howard stole a WKU deflection and needed only a touch before hammering a shot from the top of the 18. The ball hit the bottom of the crossbar, and bounced in behind the keeper for a new 2-2 game. Howard's first two-goal game of her career was her team-leading fifth of the season and the eighth goal of her young career.
"I was really comfortable with some of the changes we made tonight, and a lot of us all got some (offensive) chances," Howard explained after finishing the game with two goals on just five shots. "We have a lot versatility and we were able to get a lot of different players on without any drop-off. Two goals felt great, but that wasn't going to mean anything if we don't get a win."
Rice continued to apply the offensive pressure for the remainder of the half, out-shooting the Hilltoppers by a total of 23-13 at the end of regulation. The teams remained tied 2-2 after 90 minutes, and were still deadlocked after a 10-minute overtime. In the 102nd minute, Rice junior defender Amy Beger made a steal in WKU's half and brought the ball down the right wing. She served a long cross past the left post, where Storness was on the end line. From the end-line the veteran from California headed a shot at the sharpest angles, but the ball found the back of the Hilltopper net for the game-winning goal. The golden-goal was Storness' first of the season and her first in more than two full years.
"Amy was out there but I was thinking, she can score from there, because we see her do it all the time," Storness said. "I saw her hit it, and it came over the keeper's gloves and just dropped... in slow motion. I headed it, but I slipped backward, going the other direction. I didn't know it went in, but everyone was around going crazy. It was exciting."
The golden goal completed the come-back as the Owls improved to 5-2-1 on the season. The Blue & Gray also remained undefeated at home with a perfect 4-0-0 ledger. Western Kentucky, who entered the match regionally-ranked in the NCSCAA South, fell to 5-3-0.
"We were down, but kept fighting," coach Adams explained. "First, `Hojo' came up big to tie it up. It's hard-enough to score one goal in a game, and getting two tonight show's how far she's come in just two years. That was huge for Nikki to then get the game-winner tonight in double-overtime. I've been proud of her as one of our senior leaders off the field, and tonight she stepped-up with a finishing play on the field to get her teammates a win. I'm happy for Nikki and the girls for the way it finished-out tonight."
The Owls have closed-out the non-conference slate and begin league play next weekend at home. Rice hosts C-USA foes UAB and Memphis on Sept. 23 & 25, respectively. The start times are slated for 7 pm against the Blazers on Friday, followed by a 1 pm start against Memphis on Sunday.