HOUSTON -- Sophomore Annie Walker scored the game-winning goal in overtime to lift the red-hot Rice soccer team, now winners of a school record-tying seven-straight matches, to a 1-0 Conference USA road victory over Florida Atlantic Friday evening in Boca Raton, Fla.
Rice improved to 11-4-1 on the season and 8-2-0 in Conference USA league play to equal the program's longest win streak. The Blue & Gray also won seven-straight matches during the 2014 season and first accomplished the feat in 2003. The 2016 squad has a chance to set a new win-streak mark by playing as the No. 2 in next week's C-USA Championship Tournament in Charlotte, N.C.
Friday's win kept Rice in a tie for first place with North Texas in the league's regular season standings as both teams have compiled 24 points from eight C-USA wins. The Mean Green defeated Rice in the head-to-head meeting earlier in the year to clinch the tournament's No. 1 seed. Where the Owls have closed-out their regular season schedule, North Texas can also still claim the C-USA regular season title outright with a win over Louisiana Tech in its final match on Sunday.
The annual showdown of C-USA's two Owls teams was practically as even as the nicknames themselves. In the 37th minute FAU made a nice team-save on a Samantha Chaiken's header, but both squads volleyed almost identical shots, saves and corner kicks for the first 90 minutes. This Owls-v-Owls required extra time to determine the outcome, and it was only the second time this season for Rice to go past 90 minutes.
In the 92nd minute Rice stayed-out of trouble as defenders got in front and blocked Sammy Rowland's hard shot from inside the 18 on the left side. In the 97th minute, Rice junior forward Nia Stallings corralled a loose ball deep on the left wing but had just too sharp an angle and not enough time to try and turn for a shot of her own. The FAU defense meanwhile was converging quickly, so Stallings instead played the ball back out in front of the goal.
That's where Annie Walker was charging-in with a better, straight-on, view. The sophomore from Michigan needed only to settle Stalling's serve, wind-up and fire home a shot to the right side of the goal. The ball found the back of net for Walker's third goal of the season and her first game-winner of the year.
The Rice trio of Walker, Chaiken and Marissa Topolski all shared the game's individual lead with three shots. Rice held a 15-11 advantage in shots and 5-4 final margin in corner kicks. Rice freshman goalkeeper Samantha Colley finished the night with seven saves, just one off her career-high. The shutout was Rice's seventh of the season and third in as many games.
The Blue & Gray has now posted double-digit wins in five of the last six seasons under head coach Nicky Adams. There's still room for more, including a chance for a school-record eighth win in row, coming up at next week's C-USA Tournament.