HOUSTON -- The North Texas soccer team rallied for a 2-1 win over the Rice Owls in the Conference USA opener for both teams Sunday night at Holloway Field in Houston.
The Owls were on the attack early and quickly jumped the scoreboard. In the eighth minute, senior Jenny Fichera was brought down inside the 18 resulting in a penalty kick. She converted on the attempt for her second goal of the season and a 1-0 Rice advantage.
Defending C-USA champion North Texas would not go away so easily. In the 24th minute Marchelle Davis avoided Rice traffic with a throw-in from the right side, but found teammate Rachel Holden in front of the keeper’s box. Holden headed the ball in for the tying score, but the Mean Green wasn’t finished. In 47th minute Rice shifted to Taylor Torres’ counter attack on the right side, but Torres crossed a pass back to Holden in front of the goal. Holden punched-in the go-ahead score with her second goal of the night.
“North Texas is always an extremely tough team to play against,” said Rice head coach Nicky Adams. “They battle in such a direct way that it’s really hard to get a hold of the ball and play your style with the amount of pressure they apply. I thought we started well, but then we let in a silly goal off of a throw-in. We weren’t marked tight enough, and I think that change it a bit.
“I am disappointed with the way we came out in the second half, allowing a counter attack that cost us,” Adams explained. “After getting down a goal we did not respond like we needed to, and that was a tough lesson for this young team to learn.”
In the second half North Texas was on the attack with a 7-5 lead in shots and a 5-0 advantage in corner kicks. Still, Rice was extremely close with the equalizer in the 77th minute. Sophomore Marissa Topolski made a move on the wing to beat a pair of defenders, then served the ball to sophomore Gabby Martinez hustling into the keeper’s box. Martinez got air-born to get her head on the pass, but her shot was just over the crossbar.
“That was a great service by Marissa,” coach Adams said. “I think Gabby did a good job of getting up and winning the ball in the air. She’s made that shot before. It just didn’t get in the back of then net this time.
“It’s only the first conference game and we have a lot more to go,” the head coach added. “This is a good match to get us to dig deep, and look at some areas that we have to change in order to do well the rest of the conference season.”
Rice is now 3-3-1 on the season and 0-1 to start C-USA action. North Texas is 6-3-1 overall and 1-0 against the league.
The Owls have a short week before next facing conference foe Louisiana Tech on Thursday night on the road in Ruston, La. The match is Rice’s lone outing of the week before returning home to host Western Kentucky and Southern Miss on Sept. 30 and Oct. 2, respectively.