Oct. 22, 2010
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Rice senior goalkeeper Catherine Fitzsimmons made a total of seven saves, but a lone Memphis goal on a penalty kick provided the margin in the Tigers' 1-0 home victory over the Owls in a key Conference USA match Friday night at the Mike Rose Soccer Complex in Memphis, Tenn.
With a lot on the line for both the teams that were in a group who entered the showdown tied for second in the C-USA standings, the Owls could not turn a sound and solid effort into a coveted result. Fitzsimmons and the Rice defenders had successfully kept the Tigers off the board in the early-going. Stopping a one-on-one penalty kick however, even for a keeper having a great game like Fitzsimmons against the top-shooting team in the conference (18.1 attempts per game), is a hill and a mountain to climb.
The Owls had hand-ball in the keeper's box in the 31st minute. Memphis junior defender Lizzy Simonin converted the ensuing penalty kick into her third goal of the year and a 1-0 lead.
Down but not out against a Tiger team that has been to the NCAA Tournament three-straight years in a row, Rice had a sensational chance to tie the game early in the second half. In the 47th minute Owl freshman defender Hayley Williams had a header attempt at an open goal, but the ball went over the crossbar.
Memphis out-shot Rice 14-9 and held a narrow 2-1 edge in corner kicks. The Owls are now 8-7-2 on the season and are in fifth place in the Conference USA standings with a 5-2-2 league record. Memphis improved to 12-3-2 on the year and moved into a tie for first place in conference with a 6-1-2 C-USA ledger. Rice interim head coach Nicky Adams said the Owls played well in a close game against a talented team, but stated the effort will have to increase for another tough conference road game right around the corner.
"We fought hard tonight and at times we were very good," Adams said. "Cat (Fitzsimmons) was phenomenal and I was very pleased with our backline playing well once again. We had a great chance to tie the score right after halftime. A little more experience would have helped us there, but our young players are getting more and more of that every game. We could have helped ourselves by focusing and finishing in the final third (of the field).
"We have our work cut out for us, no question," Adams added. "We have two games left against two teams that will be going all-out. We learned tonight that you can't just play well enough to match a team, you have to exceed the other team - with your play on the field, with emotion, with everything. There's a lot of things that can happen (with two games left in the conference standings), we have to focus on taking care of our business."
Rice has one road game down, but there is still one more to go. The Owls must next play at UAB on Sunday, Oct. 24. Start time with the Blazers is set for 1 pm in Birmingham, Ala.