Sept. 21, 2012
Holly Hargreaves scored in the sixth minute of the contest, and the Owls soccer team hung-on for a dramatic 1-0 victory over the visiting Tulsa Golden Hurricane in the Conference USA season-opener for both teams Friday evening at the Rice Soccer Stadium in Houston.
It's one game, but he victory gives Rice a share of the early lead in the C-USA standings. The Owls have now won each of their last three C-USA openers dating back to 2010. Rice head coach Nicky Adams was as pleased with the final result as she was with the Owls' effort.
"We had been looking forward to the start of conference," Adams said. "I am proud of the effort the girls put forth tonight. We wanted to come out on-fire, and I think we executed the game plan perfectly."
The Owls turned-up the offensive pressure early and jumped on the scoreboard with the team's fastest goal of the year. In the sixth minute, freshman Danielle Spriggs made a long dribble down the left sideline and crossed the ball to Quinney Truong in front of the Tulsa goal. The Golden Hurricane defense closing-in fast, Truong headed a shot high that had a chance to beat the keeper on the right side. The ball, however, was a little too wide and deflected off the post. The near miss was unlucky for Truong, but still not so unlucky for Rice. Hargreaves opportunistically played the rebound and quickly converted on a shot from six yards out that found the back of the Tulsa net.
"That was a great goal by Holly," Adams explained. "She's finding the back of the net for us. That's huge to get an early lead. It gives us a little cushion at halftime where we don't have to panic in the second half."
Hargreaves notched her team-leading fifth goal of the season and Truong tallied an assist on the play to give the Owls a 1-0 advantage. Only 10 games into the season, Hargreaves' five goals is already the most by a Rice freshman in five years. The rookie standout from New Hope, Pa., along with senior Owl Alex Burton, shared the game lead with four shots each.
Though Hargreaves has been making it look easy at times, the rookie is quick to stress looks can be deceiving. What is without debate is that for that as hard as Hargreaves and the team had been playing, the Owls maybe deserved to have the ball bounce their way.
"I was practically already celebrating because I was certain Quinney had that goal," Hargreaves said. "Then it hit the post and bounced right on the line. We're told to follow every shot and I was right there.
"The main thing is we had a lot of intensity and we were connecting passes," Hargreaves added. "We were containing well and defending as a unit. We were forward a lot in the first half. How well we were playing, that was no accident."
Where Rice had a comfortable 14-1 lead in shots in the first half, the Blue & Gray had to dig for a battle in for the second half. The Golden Hurricane would not go away so easy and proceeded to take a host of quick shots to go along with a steady 6-2 advantage in corner kicks. The Owls defense withstood the challenge to preserve a 1-0 C-USA victory.
"We knew that Tulsa was going to put up a fight," coach Adams said. "They keep playing hard, and that's our conference. We keep stressing to the team that playing conference games is going to be a different level. We better be ready because now it's conference games the rest of the way."
The Owls improved to 4-4-2 on the season and 1-0-0 in C-USA league play. Tulsa is now 5-3-1 overall and 0-1-0 in conference. Rice closes out its current homestand on Sunday (Sept. 23). The Owls host C-USA foe SMU at 1 pm at the Rice Soccer Stadium.