EL PASO, Tex. - UTEP scored in the 96th minute to claim a 1-0 Conference USA match over the visiting Rice soccer team Sunday afternoon at University Field in El Paso, Texas.
The first goal the Owls had allowed in more than 343 combined minutes over the last four games was the difference in the team's first loss since August 22. Rice is now 7-2-2 overall and in second place in C-USA league play with nine points garnered from its 3-1-0 conference record.
On Sunday Rice held an 8-3 advantage in corner kicks and led in shots 15-8, including a 9-4 margin in the second half. Despite controlling most of the tempo, UTEP held solid for 90 minutes to send the game into overtime. In the 96th minute, Miner forward Jeanna Mullen played a pass off a free kick for the game-winning score with her first career goal. UTEP improved to 8-5-1 on the season and 2-2-0 in C-USA (six points, tied for fifth place).
Rice head coach Nicky Adams stated an important step for the team now is to stay focused on the big picture. She emphasized what the Owls did well Sunday, and what the team can build-on moving forward with six more league games still to play.
Adams and the Owls have trekked into her hometown of El Paso many times over the years. It's a series that goes back to 2001 when the schools were rivals in the Western Athletic Conference. Sunday was another home-coming for the head coach, just without the comforts of home.
"We had our moments, and a lot of very good individual efforts," Adams said. (Senior midfielder) Gabriela Iribarne was our best player today. She was the starting point for a lot of our opportunities, and has played well recently. (Senior defender) Ashton Geisendorff was solid on the backline. She was very steady again, not letting their offense get untracked. (Freshman midfielder) Samantha Chaiken was great in the air for us, and won a lot balls in the midfield.
"Fifteen shots and eight corner kicks," Adams added, "I like how we created offensive chances. I am certain we have some of the best attackers in the conference, and I also expect us to play our best each game. We did not do well in a tough environment and very poor field conditions, but I thought we were close to breaking through and winning."
Despite the setback Rice still has a 7-1-2 ledger over the last ten games that is almost identical to the best 10-game stretch in program history. The Owls have twice had ten-game runs of 8-1-1. The most-recent occurrence of going 8-1-1 was from the C-USA championship season of 2012.
The Owls have wrapped-up the weekend road swing and next return to action with a C-USA match on Sunday, Oct. 12. Rice hosts North Texas at 1 pm. The Mean Green were the C-USA preseason favorite to win the league and lead the current standings with 12 points.