Sept. 23, 2012Lauren Hughes scored two first half goals and then assisted on freshman Holly Hargreaves' game-winner in the 87th minute for the Owl soccer team's dramatic 3-2 Conference USA victory over visiting SMU Sunday afternoon at the Rice Soccer Stadium in Houston.
With the win the Owls, 5-4-2 on the season and undefeated at 2-0-0 in C-USA play, retained a share of first place in the conference standings through the opening weekend of league games. Rice third year head coach Nicky Adams has been around long enough to know that getting to 2-0 Sunday (after equally demanding C-USA games on Friday night) would be a challenge.
"Sunday games are tough for everybody, so we knew going-in legs were going to be tired for everybody," coach Adams said. "I'm proud of the girls. We got down by a goal early, but came right back and took the lead. SMU countered and tied it back-up before the half, but we fought the entire time and found a way to finish."
SMU (4-5-1, 0-1-1) took control early and opened the game's scoring. In 14th minute, Courtney Smith made a long throw-in from the left side and found Shelby Redman on the wing. Redman took a shot from the 18 and found the back of the Rice net for a 1-0 advantage.
The Mustang lead didn't last long. The Owls' freshman duo of Hargreaves setting-up Hughes put the Blue & Gray on the board with a game-tying score in the 19th minute and then a go-head goal in the 22nd.
"On the first goal I was kind of off-balance, (SMU's defense) got a piece of it, and it trickled-in," said Hughes, an Ottawa native in her first season of collegiate soccer. "The second one Holly played a really nice through-ball. I got on the end of it and saw it go in."
SMU re-tied the score in the 30th minute. Mustang Lissi Lonsberry corralled a loose ball on the Owls' half of the field and made a quick serve to the Ponies' leading scorer Kenzie Scovill at the top of the 18 and in front of the goal. Scovill converted the shot attempt and it was a new game again, 2-2 before the intermission.
The shots for both teams were an even 6-6 in the second stanza, but Rice's last of the day in the 87th minute proved to be the difference. Hughes had the ball in SMU's third of the field and, understandably with two goals already in the game, had the full attention of the Mustang defenders. Only this time Hughes passed it to Hargreaves, the Owls' leading scorer. The standout from New Hope, Pa., made her team-leading sixth goal of the season from close range after a run up the middle. Though it was two Owl freshmen who combined for nine points (three goals and three assists), Hughes is quick to point to the bigger picture.
"I saw Holly was open so I played it to her," Hughes said. "She turned, beat some players, went on a break-away and did well to finish.
"Yeah, the freshmen had a pretty good day today, but that's only because we all had a pretty good day," Hughes explained. "The upperclassmen have been really supportive, and bringing us along. It's great to be on a supportive team."
Thanks to a little team-wide support, Rice is tied for first place in the C-USA standings with both Memphis and East Carolina (all 2-0-0). The significance of getting not one, but two quality wins top open conference was not lost on coach Adams.
"This is huge weekend to start conference play at home," Adams said. "I'm proud of the girls to play as well as they did to get us to 2-0 at home. We've still got a lot of work to do, and it will get even harder when we now have to get on the road."
Rice has closed-out its current homestand and is on the road for each of its next two C-SUA matches. The Owls play at Southern Miss on Friday and nationally-ranked UCF on Sunday, Sept. 28-30.