HOUSTON -- Senior Lauren Hughes registered three assists and scored a goal of her own to help the Rice soccer team race past visiting FIU for a 4-2 Conference USA victory Friday evening in Houston.
Hughes quickly helped ignite an early Rice attack that stayed red-hot for the next 90 minutes. In just the second minute of the contest the Ottawa, Ontario, naive, served the ball from the midfield to sophomore forward Nia Stallings outside the 18 on the right side. Though making just her second start of the season, and first since opening day back in mid-August, Stallings was ready for the responsibility in a key league match against an FIU team holding a share of first place in the C-USA standings. She settled the Hughes pass, made a move for a more comfortable angle and blasted away toward the Panther goal.
The first shot of the game, with 1:21 off the clock, found the back of the net. The Owls were on the board 1-0 with Stallings' second goal of the season. FIU battled back to tie the game in the 19th minute after senior Scarlet Montoya made a steal in Rice territory before converting on a long-range shot for her second goal of the year.
The match did not stay tied for long. In the 21st minute, Hughes improvised a quick field-and-dish pass to junior newcomer Madeleine Lundberg charging inside the 18-yard box. Lundberg scored on her first shot of the game that not only put the Blue & Gray back in front 2-1, it was with the Owls' quickest recovery-goal recorded in two years - just 2:28 elapsed off the clock.
Rice was in front to stay, but continued to apply the offensive pressure in the second half. In the 50th minute, Hughes centered a sharp pass into traffic in front of the FIU goal. This time fellow senior Danielle Spriggs headed the ball in from near the keeper's box to make it 3-1.
Hughes had tied the school record with her third assist of the night, and to three different teammates for good measure. She then stretched the margin to 4-1 with a score of her own in the 58th minute. Stalling rifled a long cross from the right side to Hughes hustling in front of the Panthers' goal. She netted her team-leading sixth goal of the season on her fourth and final shot of the night. The goal was the 38th of her collegiate career and marked the seventh time for the international standout to register at least five points in a single game (points are awarded by combining goals and assists).
Stockpiling insurance goals proved to be the approach as FIU continued to fight. The Panthers rallied for goal in the 61st minute when Ellen Crist scored on assist from Nikki Rios.
With the win Rice improved to 6-4-1 on the season and 2-1-0 in C-USA action. The Owls finished with a 15-7 advantage in shots and 4-2 margin in corner kicks. FIU is now 6-6-0 overall and 2-1-0 in the league.
The Owls conclude the weekend homestand on Sunday (Oct. 4). Rice hosts Florida Atlantic in a C-USA match at 1 pm.