HOUSTON – Goals by Marissa Topolski and Jasmine Isokpunwu paced the Rice soccer team to its sixth win in a row with a 2-0 Conference USA shutout victory over visiting Charlotte Sunday afternoon at Holloway Field in Houston.
The Owls improved to 10-4-1 on the season and 7-2-0 in Conference USA league play behind the team’s longest win streak in two years. Rice also moved into a three-way tie for first place in the league’s regular season standings with 21 points from the seven C-USA wins.
Charlotte had Rice’s full attention by controlling some early possession and taking the game’s opening shot. The Owls managed to counter with some shot attempts of their own, but head coach Nicky Adams went to the bench in the 19th minute and the substitution worked to perfection. Soon after Topolski checked into the contest for the first time she found the back of the 49ers net for a 1-0 Rice advantage.
In the 24th minute Charlotte defenders closed-in on junior Nia Stallings charging with the ball at the middle of the 18. Stallings was getting swarmed, but passed to Topolski breaking-in on the left wing and the New Jersey native blasted away on a shot from just outside the keeper’s box. The ball found the back right side of the 49ers’ net for Topolski’s second goal of the season and a 1-0 lead.
The Blue & Gray was in front with the same margin well into the second half, but the veterans on the team well-knew that some insurance on the scoreboard would still be the safest route. In the 79th minute the experienced senior duo of Jenny Fichera and Jasmine Isokpunwu teamed as they have done again-and-again in a multitude of training sessions the past four years. Though defenders by trade, the two Owls with more than 140-combined games were smooth and in-sync on this offensive set piece.
Fichera served the ball from the right corner and found a leaping Isokpunwu in the keeper’s box. Isokpunwu headed-in her second goal of the season for some welcome breathing room at 2-0. Rice finished with an 8-7 advantage in corner kicks and held a sizable 22-7 advantage in shots – thanks in part to the steady defensive work from the veteran Owl backline. Almost lost in getting to six-straight wins was that the outcome was the team’s second-straight shutout after a 2-0 win over Old Dominion on Friday night. Owl freshman goalkeeper Samantha Colley continues to improve. She finished the day with three saves, including two in the second half.
The Blue & Gray has now posted double-digit wins in five of the last six seasons under head coach Adams, but there’s still room for more. The Owls conclude the 2016 regular season at Florida Atlantic on Friday (Oct. 28). Rice has already clinched a spot to play in the upcoming C-USA Championship Tournament that runs from November 3-6 in Charlotte, N.C.