Oct. 17, 2010
HOUSTON -- Senior Kate Edwards' goal in the 86th minute gave the Rice soccer team a glimpse of another possible late rally, but visiting East Carolina hung on for a 2-1 Conference USA win over the Owls Sunday afternoon at the Rice Soccer Stadium in Houston.
With the team's first conference loss in eight league matches, the Owls dropped from sole possession of first place in the C-USA standings into a three-way tie for second along with Memphis and UCF. All three teams are deadlocked with identical 5-1-2 C-USA records with each having three league matches left on the schedule over the next two weeks.
"It was a tough weekend for us," said Rice interim head coach Nicky Adams. "We had to go 110 minutes with Marshall to get a tie Friday night, and you could see that today. We were not at our sharpest. We made two major mistakes on the back line and ECU capitalized. That was crucial. When we are tired on Sunday our game management needs to be a little bit better. Our decision-making on the ball individually needs to be a little bit better."
East Carolina jumped on the scoreboard early in the contest. In the third minute ECU junior forward Kimmy Cummings converted a deflection floating free in the Rice keeper's box for a shot to the back of the Owl net. Cummings' third goal of the season provided a 1-0 margin for the remainder of the period despite Rice holding a 13-6 advantage in shots and a 5-0 lead in corner kicks for the half.
The Pirates extended the margin to 2-0 with a goal in the second half. In the 52nd minute sophomore Hali Oughton launched a long kick that bounced free past the Rice defenders. Junior Amanda Malkiewics springted-in, took possession of the ball and hit a shot from the right wing for her sixth goal of the year.
Down but not out, the Owls continued to press on the offensive side. In the 86th minute, sophomore Lauren LaGro send a free kick into traffic just outside the ECU keeper's box. Rice's Hope Ward deflected toward a charging Kate Edwards, who headed the ball in to the left side of the goal. It was Edwards' fourth goal of the season and the 20th of her collegiate career, tying her for the third-highest career goals total in school history. The Owls had missed her for seven matches before her recent return to action. Coach Adams sees the big picture for Edwards' return in the weeks ahead.
"It's always great for Kate to get back on the field and score a great goal for us," Adams said. "I think that is definitely going to help her momentum. When things don't go our way we are versatile enough to able to change some things up and put some numbers forward. We needed Kate today and it just shows we're going to keep fighting no matter what the score is or how much time is left."
Time was winding down but Rice still wanted one more, and almost had the game-tying shot. In the 88th minute senior Jordan Holloway made a body-sacrificing dive to attempt a header on a line-drive centering pass in front of the goal, but the ball was just out of her reach. The Blue & Gray finished the game with 17 shots, including eight on-goal. Both goalkeepers, Catherine Fitzsimmons (Rice) and Christiane Cordero (ECU) finished the contest with seven saves.
Rice dropped to 8-6-2 overall and 5-1-2 in conference. East Carolina improved to 8-7-1 on the season and 3-4-1 in C-USA action. The Owls return to the road for their next two matches on Oct. 22 & 24 at Memphis and UAB, respectively. Rice then returns home to close out the regular season against crosstown rival, and C-USA leading, Houston on Oct. 29.
"Here we go right back on the road again, and these two games are really important," Adams added. "We'll have to be at our best on Friday night to be able to play with Memphis. UAB is just as important right after that .The girls know what a huge weekend this will be on the road. We'll definitely get to work this week in practice."
The game's box score can be viewed at the above links.