Oct. 2, 2011
TULSA, Okla. - The Rice soccer team got an early goal from Alex Burton, a late goal from Annie Kadota, and a second-straight complete-game shutout from goalkeeper Amy Czyz to claim a 2-0 Conference USA road victory at Tulsa Sunday afternoon at Hurricane Stadium in Tulsa, Okla.
Not only was the C-USA win Rice's second in a row on the current weekend road swing, the Owls have now already matched their win total (8) from all of last season. Rice improved to 8-3-1 on the season and 3-1-0 in league action to remain in a tie for third place in the conference standings.
After a dramatic and late-found victory at SMU on Friday night, Rice established a crucial early lead against the Golden Hurricane on Alex Burton's second goal of the season. In the 10th minute of the contest the Owls' leading scorer, Jessica Howard, had both the ball and full attention of the Tulsa defense in the attacking third. As the Hurricanes worked to contain Howard, who entered the week tied for seventh in the nation in game-winning goals, she passed the ball to Burton on the left wing.
Burton began the year as a starting forward for the first five games of the season, but she had been contributing off the bench for the last six games. She might have even drifted off the radar of the last few opponents, but Rice head coach Nicky Adams liked what she saw from Burton in the practices leading up to Sunday's game and put her back in the starting lineup for the first time in a month.
At just 10 minutes into the contest, Burton got the ball from Howard and unleashed the first shot of the game from 12 yards out on the left side. She found the back of the net to give Rice a lead it would not relinquish. Her second goal of the season was her first since defeating McNeese State in August.
"Alex had a great week of practice and she's been working on the things we asked her to work on," coach Adams said. "That's the reason she got the start today and she did really, really, well. I thought she had a great game. The coaches and her teammates have full-confidence that Alex can be dangerous for us. We have a lot of depth this season where different players can start and score."
"That first goal was so important," Adams added. "Any time you're on the road and get a goal early, that is huge. We played better after we got it. I thought we gained a lot of momentum (after the goal) and that was important because Tulsa is a very good team. Their work ethic was really good and they had high-energy."
The good news was the Owls had an early lead. The bad news was it was still extremely early, on the road, and against a high-energy team. The Blue & Gray needed another big game on defense.
Freshman keeper Amy Czyz answered with another complete-game shutout and three more saves to match the three she had in Friday's SMU win. In just 12 games that have made up her Division I career so far, Rice's rookie keeper has maintained an austere 0.49 goals-against average and a solid .824 save percentage.
Rice had the lead and the defense was in-gear, but things could still be just a little safer with some insurance. It didn't take long for two of coach Adams' lineup moves in the second half to quickly pay a dividends.
In the 69th minute defender Britton Cartwright came off the bench to get in the game. No more than 30 seconds after Annie Kadota checked into the game in the 77th minute, she and Cartwright teamed together for the much-needed insurance goal.
Cartwright won the ball on the wing and played it to Kadota 18 yards out. Kadota turned and blasted away on a shot attempt and found the back of the net for a 2-0 Rice lead. The goal was Kadota's second, and the assist was Cartwright's first, of the year.
"Again, our depth is one of our strengths," coach Adams explained. "It's just a matter of when we're connecting passes, we're getting opportunities. We help ourselves when we play together. I didn't think we had the best run of play in the first half, but the second half I think we did a much better job. We maintained possession and forced Tulsa to defend us a little more in the second half.
"In the second half the girls did well finding more space to attack," she said. "(Senior midfielder) Hope Ward did a great job out on the flank and getting first forward for us. The midfield was a battle out there today. We knew it would be. We're happy with our performance. It's just so exciting to win a conference game on the road."
Rice finished with a 12-6 advantage in shots and a 7-4 lead in corner kicks. For the season Tulsa's record moved to 7-4-2 overall and 1-2-1 in C-USA play.
The Owls have finished the current weekend road-swing, but the team still has two more tough C-USA road games to play next week (Oct. 7-9) before finally returning for home matches on Oct. 14-16. Rice next plays a C-USA match at Colorado College on Oct. 7, followed by a league game at UTEP on Oct. 9. Colorado College is a spot ahead of Rice in the C-USA standings while the Owls and UTEP are tied for third place.