Oct. 7, 2012
The Owls and Pirates were tied for second place in the C-USA standings when the day began. Both teams remain deadlocked on the conference leaderboard after a similar 0-0 stalemate on the scoreboard that included 90 minutes of regulation and two 10-minute overtime periods.
Rice did not get on the scoreboard, but it wasn't for a lack of effort. The Owls took 40 shots for the 110-minute contest. The total was sixth-highest in the history of the soccer program and the most by a Rice team in five years dating back to 42 shots taken against Lamar in 2007. Eleven different Owls logged shot attempts, led by senior Julia Barrow with eight for a new career-high. Freshman Holly Hargreaves had seven shots and fellow rookie Lauren Hughes came off the bench to take seven shots in just 64 minutes of work.
Rice put in plenty of work to create offensive opportunities that led to a final 40-10 advantage in shots, as well as a 12-1 margin in corner kicks. Credit ECU goalkeeper Christiane Cordero with making 12 saves, including four in the two overtime periods. In one sequence in the 69th minute, Rice sophomore midfielder Quinney Truong attempted a shot from 10-yards out. Cordero punched the ball away for a save, but the full play wasn't quite finished. Owl sophomore Gabriela Iribarne quickly gathered the deflection and attempted a follow-up shot of her own, but the Pirate defense alertly filled-in behind Cordero to block away that attempt and save a potential score.
The Owls also bounced two attempts bounce off the crossbar as part of a 20-shot second half. Barrow hit the framework in the 52nd minute and freshman defender Jasmine Isokpunwu saw her lone attempt of the day do the same in the 71st.Rice head coach Nicky Adams was able to stay positive thanks to an eye on a bigger picture - like how well the Owls put together offensive chances against a Pirate defense that is one of the tops in the conference and who entered the day allowing just 13.1 shots per game. It's also of note that where Rice had been an austere 0-5-1 in the last six combined games against both of the teams the Owls faced this weekend (East Carolina Sunday and Marshall on Friday), the Blue & Gray pulled-out an unbeaten 1-0-1 weekend. Adams, who has seen a lot in soccer over the years, stated that win-lose-or-draw it's not uncommon for the game to be uncommon.
"Sometimes these games are funny," coach Adams said, though clearly looking for just a little more actual humor on this particular occasion. "I thought our team was absolutely fantastic this entire weekend. It felt like we did everything right today. I'm excited for the way we played. I feel for our players, who felt they deserved to win today, but we're doing the right things.
"I thought this weekend was where we wanted to see clear signs of improvement, and I think we've shown that, absolutely," she added. "I'm proud of the individual responsibility that our players took over the course of this week to make sure that we had a great weekend."
Almost lost among all the offensive shot-counting was a quiet but solid effort by the Rice defense. Owl sophomore goalkeeper Amy Czyz made six saves and the Rice backline of Isokpunwu, Lauren LaGro, Alexandra Trenary and Hayley Williams held the same ECU squad that scored three quick first half goals in the Pirates' game on Friday night to no goals for 110 minutes and just 10 shots.
"We didn't get the win we wanted, but we're happy with how we played," LaGro said. "I thought the defense did a great job, playing hard and playing for each other. We gave up a goal on Friday (to Marshall) and we didn't feel good about that. (The defense) really wanted to have shutout today. When you think to how (the backline) played at the beginning of the year, in August, to how we played this weekend it's obvious we've come a long way."
Rice is now 7-5-3 on the season and 4-1-1 in C-USA play. East Carolina moved to 8-5-1 overall and 4-1-1 against the league.
The Owls have concluded their two-game weekend homestand and are on the road for the next two C-USA games against Memphis and UAB. In a bit of a change from the normal weekend soccer scheduling, the match against C-USA leader Memphis is on Thursday night (Oct. 11). The 7 pm showdown with the Tigers, 10-3 overall and in first place in the conference with a 6-0 league record, will be televised by FOX Soccer. The Owls then meet UAB in Birmingham, Ala., on Oct. 14.