Oct. 9, 2011
EL PASO, Tex. - Rice sophomore midfielder Jessica Howard scored the tying goal with less than three minutes left in regulation, and after two overtime periods the Owls and UTEP soccer teams finished a Conference USA league game in a 2-2 tie Sunday afternoon on the road in El Paso, Tex.
Rice exploded out of the starting gate and scored its second-fastest goal to start a game this season. In the fourth minute of the contest, Rice sent a free kick into traffic near the UTEP goal. Senior forward Hope Ward found junior Alex Burton, who converted on her first shot of the day for a 1-0 Owl lead. The goal was Burton's third of the year. Ward notched her third assist this season to move her into sole possession of second place on Rice's all time list for career assists with 19. She now is five back of tying the Rice career record of 24 assists set in 2007.
Rice was in-front four minutes in to the contest, but there was a lot of soccer left and UTEP entered the match with a perfect 8-0-0 when playing at home. Rice head coach Nicky Adams said she has seen it before in soccer, where sometimes a team can score a little too early.
"We came out playing well, and Alex scored on a great shot," coach Adams said. "After we scored so early we dropped our level a little bit. We allowed UTEP to attack in some spaces. They capitalized on the team mistake of not closing down spaces. The two goals they scored were very similar, and directly related to what we weren't doing."
In the 24th minute, UTEP's Katie Dorman made a cross from the far wing and found Miner scoring leader Brittany Kindzierski. Kinzierski tied the contest with her sixth goal of the season, but the Miners weren't finished. Just seven minutes later, UTEP's Azia Nicholson played a low ball to Kindzierski who scored again for her second goal of the game. For as quickly as it seemed that Rice had taken the lead, the Owls now trailed 2-1.
After the intermission Rice was on a mission to re-tie the score. On top of out-shooting the Miners 7-6 in the second half, the Blue & Gray took an eye-opening seven corner kicks to UTEP's two.
"In the second half we made some adjustments," coach Adams explained. "One of my favorite things about this team is that they do not give up, they battle. They never stopped fighting. They wanted it really, really, bad and kept going. They don't give up."
Down but not out, Rice made its move in the 88th minute. Jessica Howard dashed away with a loose ball, got free from defenders, and tapped the ball past the UTEP keeper. Her team-leading eighth goal of the season had knotted-up the game at 2-2. The score remained deadlocked after regulation and two 10-minute overtime periods. Still battling into the second overtime, the Owls nearly tallied the game-winning golden-goal in the 106th minute when Hope Ward lined a shot attempt that hit a post.
Soccer can also be a game of inches.
"The whole game was back-and-forth, both teams fought hard," Adams said. "It was getting late, and Hojo (Jessica Howard) scored a great goal to equalize it. In the overtime I thought we played really well. Hope hit the post in (the second) overtime. She has a never-die attitude and just kept working and working and working. (Sophomore) Britton Cartwright came off the bench and really filled a void for us in the defensive center-mid. She won the ball for us and then simplified the offense for us with her passes in the midfield.
"Our goal is to win, but we refused to lose and I am proud of the team," the head coach added. "These two conference games (including the C-USA match at Colorado College on Friday) are the hardest (weekend) road trips Conference USA has. Both sites are in altitude, but on very different surfaces from each other or any other team in our conference. It's a difficult weekend of soccer, but our girls adjusted, did the best they could and we picked up a point (for the tie)."
UTEP moved to 10-3-2 overall and 4-1-1 in the league. For Rice, now 8-4-2 on the season and 3-2-1 in C-USA action, the team has finished the most challenging part of its conference schedule with flying colors. In a span of four-straight C-USA road games over the last 10 days the Owls went 2-1-1 and are still a major factor in the conference standings.
The good news is even better as the team is now back home for its next two home games on Oct. 14 & 16. Rice hosts national power UCF on Friday at 7 pm, followed by a 1 pm game against Southern Miss on Sunday. The two games are the final home appearances for four Rice seniors.
The game's box score is viewable at the above links.