Sept. 23, 2011
HOUSTON - Rice sophomore midfielder Jessica Howard notched her second-straight two-goal game to lift the Rice soccer team to a 4-0 Conference USA victory over visiting UAB in the league opener for both teams Friday night at the Owls' Holloway Field in Houston.
After a two-goal game in last week's home overtime win against Western Kentucky, Howard matched the feat again on Friday against UAB to jumpstart the Owls in C-USA action. The Dallas native quickly put Rice on the scoreboard in the game's fourth minute. Junior Julia Barrow lined up a free kick on the right side from well outside the 18 after a Blazer foul, and found Howard in traffic near the keeper's box on the left side. Howard's quick header sent the ball to the back of the net for a 1-0 advantage the Blue & Gray would not relinquish.
In the ninth minute, Rice junior Lauren LaGro scored on a direct free kick from 25 yards out on the left side after a Blazer foul. LaGro's second goal of the season doubled the margin to 2-0, but the Owls continued to apply the offensive pressure.
In the 16th minute, junior defender Amy Beger served a long pass from deep in Rice territory to a Jessica Howard in the middle of the field. Howard settled the serve with a touch and sprinted with a dribble past two UAB defenders before letting a shot a rip from inside the 18. Howard found the back of the net for the second time on the night and her fourth goal in the last two games. Her team-leading seventh goal of the season stretched the margin to 3-0.
With a comfortable lead on the scoreboard and a 16-4 advantage in shots at the half, Rice head coach Nicky Adams was able to go nine players deep into the bench for some valuable playing time in the second half. Seven of the team's eight freshmen all played, and two of the Rice rookies accounted for the final goal of the night late in the contest.
In the 83rd minute, the freshman duo of Gabriela Iribarne and Quinney Truong combined for the game's final score. As the Blazer defense closed-in on Troung in front of the UAB net, she made a lateral pass to Iribarne on her right, who quickly connected on a shot from 10 yards out for her first career goal at the Division I level.
Rice finished the contest with a 29-6 advantage in shots and matched a season-high with four goals. Almost lost in the offensive fireworks was some sound and solid work by the Owl defense. The Blue & Gray posted the squad's fifth complete game shutout of the young season. Coach Adams was pleased with Rice's performance on both sides of the ball.
"Our game plan was executed pretty well and the benefit was that we were able to get some players some extra rest before Sunday (when Rice hosts No. 9 Memphis)," coach Adams said. "Every single player that went-on did their job and we could be more proud of the team.
"How about Jessica Howard?" coach Adams quizzed. "Getting a two-goal game in your career is great, and getting two of them, in back-to-back games no less, is outstanding. She is playing her best soccer right now. Tonight our entire midfield was making things happen.
"Something we talked about coming off that Western Kentucky game was that we were able to score early, but we let them (WKU) come right back," she added. "The team did exactly what we asked tonight, to score early and to keep coming back with pressure in the final third. You have to give credit to our entire backline for getting a shutout. There are a lot of great, veteran players in our league who can score. Any time you can get a shutout in a conference game it means a lot of players were playing hard, and playing together."
Rice is now 6-2-1 on the season and 1-0-0 in C-USA. UAB dropped to 3-6-0 overall and 0-1-0 in conference. The Owls next face No. 9 ranked Memphis on Sunday (Sept. 25) to close out the current homestand. Start time with the undefeated Tigers is set for 1 pm.
(The game's official box score appears at the above links.)