Sept. 27, 2013
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EL PASO, Tex. - The Rice soccer team scored a pair of back-to-back goals late in the second half to claim a 2-1 Conference USA road win at longtime rival UTEP in the league-opener for both teams Friday night at University Field in El Paso.
The sides were locked in a 0-0 duel for the first 71 minutes of the contest. UTEP opened the scoring in the 72nd minute as Tayler O'Hare converted on a long and bounding free-kick to the back of the Owl net for her second goal of the season.
"UTEP is a talented team with a lot of wins already under its belt, so we knew we had our work cut-out for us," Rice head coach Nicky Adams said. "They're already tough-enough to play in any circumstance, but to have them on the road in the conference-opener makes it that much tougher."
"We were offside a couple of times in the first half and could not get anything going," she said. "We made some adjustments in the second half and I thought we were playing better when they hit a really long free kick after a (Rice) foul. I knew we were playing better. We just needed not to let that goal get us down nor lose focus."
The Miners may have opened the game's scoring, but once opened it was Rice goals that soon came flooding through. Less than four minutes after the UTEP goal, Owl freshman Bella Hernandez crossed the ball into the UTEP box where junior midfielder Gabriela Iribarne hit her only shot of the night for the equalizer. The goal was Iribarne's first of the season and certainly gave the Blue & Gray new life.
Just one minute and 20 seconds after Iribarne's goal, freshman Jenny Fichera made a cross to the far post to find Holly Hargeaves in the box with two of her Rice teammates. The C-USA Freshman of the Year from last season finished her lone shot of the night, a header, for a goal and a new 2-1 Owl lead. The score was Hargreaves' fourth of the season - and only fourth as two would-be goals from last week's 3-3 game vs Oklahoma State were wiped off the books when that contest was cancelled due to weather conditions before reaching the 70th minute.
"Holly may not get credit for 'three' goals in the last two games, but it sure feels that way to her and her teammates," Adams said. "She's so dangerous with the ball and can be a threat to score at any time.
"I am also really proud of Gabi," the head coach added. "She has been working so hard, and she was another player who had a goal for us against OSU that ended up getting erased. Tonight it was her turn. Both goals were set up by two freshmen, Bella and Jenny. It can get lost sometimes that this is their first season of Division I soccer. They've been getting better and better and they have really helped us."
Rice improved to 3-3-2 overall and 1-0-0 in league play. UTEP is 7-3-1 on the season and 0-1-0 in conference.
The Owls have completed the first half of the weekend road swing, but there is still one more to play. Rice next competes at new C-USA member UTSA on Sunday (Sept. 29) in San Antonio. The match start time is set for 1 pm.
"We battled back tonight, but there is work left to do," Adams surmised. "We have to be prepared to play again against a team that will be hungry to win at home."