Oct. 5, 2012Holly Hargreaves scored her team-leading eighth goal of the season and sophomore Gabriela Iribarne had a goal and assist to help lead the Owls' soccer team to a 4-1 Conference USA victory over visiting Marshall Friday evening at the Rice Soccer Stadium in Houston.
The Owls improved to 7-5-2 on the season and 4-1-0 in C-USA action to hold a share of second place in the league standings. Marshall is 6-7-0 overall and 2-3-0 in conference. Rice held a 16-9 advantage in shots and finished with a 6-3 margin corner kicks. All week Rice head coach Nicky Adams stressed that "finishing" would be one of the keys. It proved to be a lesson a lot Owls took to heart.
"I was really proud of the girls and their energy tonight," coach Adams said. "All week long we've been working on their final-third play. We worked really hard on that, and the results was we got four different players on the board tonight. We found some creativity. We had a different energy and it was a great win for us."
Hargreaves opened what proved to be an explosive night for the Owl offense with a goal in the 18th minute. Rice's Julia Barrow set up for a free kick after a Thundering Herd foul and found teammate Hayley Williams inside the goalkeeper's box. Williams headed the ball to Hargreaves and the freshman from New Hope, Pa., quickly blasted away on a shot attempt from close range. The Rice rookie found the back of the Marshall net for her team-leading eighth goal of the season and a 1-0 lead.
The Blue & Gray stretched the margin to 2-0 just before the end of the first half. In the 42nd minute Iribarne, who had missed some early Rice games while playing for Argentina in the recent Women's Under-20 World Cup in Japan, beat a Marshall defender with the ball before passing to freshman Lauren Hughes in front of the goal but well outside the 18. Hughes sprinted to take-on a charging Herd keeper one-on-one, and before a collision the Owl forward from Ottawa, Canada, played the ball to the side before punching a now diagonal shot to the back of the Marshall net. The score was Hughes' sixth of the season and, along with Hargreaves, the Owls' freshmen duo have combined for 14 goals in the squad's 14 games.
Iribarne was back on the attack early in the second half to give Rice a 3-0 advantage. In the 47th minute Marshall successfully cleared out a Rice corner kick, but Iribarne jumped in front of a Thundering Herd pass at the top of the 18. Before the defense could close-in, she unleashed a hard low shot that found the back netting on the left side for her first Rice goal of the season.
Rice may have been in the driver's seat up 3-0, but Marshall would not go away so easily. The Herd's hard-work to set up a corner kick paid off with a goal in the 69th minute. Senior midfielder Sarah Vinson's corner kick found sophomore Alyssa Cathey inside the keeper's box. Cathey headed-in a shot attempt for her third goal of the season and 3-1 contest with more than 20 minutes remaining.
The Owls had one more bit of business left, and it came from one of the Rice seniors who had all gone three-consecutive years without beating Marshall. The Herd had already scored once on a corner kick and were looking for another in the 88th minute by bringing all 11 players forward. Rice senior Amy Beger had helped clear away the corner, and though deep on the Owl end, sprinted with the ball to the Marshall goal with the Thundering Herd in pursuit. After a lengthy run down the middle of the pitch Beger closed out Rice's offensive outburst with her first goal of the season.
Long one of the top defensive players in the conference, but who started in the midfield Friday for the first time, the goal was just the sixth of Beger's Rice career. The Saint Charles, Mo., native may not take a lot of shots while defending the opposing team's top scorers, but as coach Adams had stressed - when Beger got on her break-away she finished what she started.
"You want to play well in a conference game, no question," Beger said, "but also, the Rice seniors had not beaten Marshall. Tonight the freshmen got us started... again. We were having fun playing soccer tonight, that was great to see. We were having fun on both sides of the ball."
Rice's two-game weekend homestand concludes on Sunday (Oct. 7). The Owls host East Carolina in a 1 pm C-USA contest.