Oct. 29, 2010
HOUSTON - The Rice and University of Houston soccer teams combined for 41 shots in 110 minutes after two overtime periods, but the crosstown foes battled to a 0-0 tie in the final regular season game for both teams before a rowdy crowd of 1,481 Friday night at the Rice Soccer Stadium.
The contest marked the final home appearance for six Rice seniors, but it's not their nor the team's final match just yet. The Owls will play in the annual C-USA Championship to be held Nov. 3-7 in Orlando, Fla. The winner of the league tournament earns C-USA's automatic bid to the NCAA Championship the following weekend.
Both Rice and Houston already knew before the annual city-showdown that win or lose... or even tie, that both had secured trips to the C-USA Tournament. If going easy in the friendly is the way to head into the postseason, neither team nor both sets of fans successfully got that message. Like all the other Rice-Houston games before it (in any sport the schools both sponsor), both teams went all-out. The foes peppered the opposing goal with shots for 90 minutes, then proceeded to do it some more for the two 10-minute overtime periods after that. If going all-out also means getting a little physical, then consider there were more three times as many fouls called in Friday's Rice-UH soccer game (27) than there were in the Bayou Bucket football game (9) two weeks ago - a shame if you don't know Rice won that one 34-31.
Houston held a 21-20 advantage in shots for the match, but Rice finished with a 7-1 lead in corner kicks and out-shot the Cougars 8-3 in the OTs. Owl senior goalkeeper Catherine Fitzsimmons answered the challenge in her final home game with a career-high total of 10 saves. Senior forward Korey Taylor shared the Blue & Gray team lead with three shots, one of four Owls with three attempts on the night. Taylor said her senior classmates and the entire team gave it all they had.
"I know that all six of us seniors left everything out on the field tonight," Taylor said. "This is an emotional game going-in, being our last home game, but we all worked hard tonight. Coach told us to play so that you won't have any regrets, and I honestly don't. I think we all worked as hard as we could. It just didn't go our way."
Taylor and the Owls didn't let it go the other way, either. Both teams took shots and had chances. The Owls came close on a near golden pair of back-to-back second half shot attempts. In the 77th minute sophomore defender Amy Beger, playing in her first Houston-game in two years after missing last season with an injury, hit the crossbar. As the fans let out a collective gasp, senior Elizabeth Nesbit corralled the crossbar deflection and took a follow-up shot that ended up going just wide of the target.
"We had our opportunities," said Rice interim head coach Nicky Adams. "We knew Houston had a very strong attack and a very good defense. We knew it was going to go back-and-forth. Both teams had opportunities, but couldn't find the back of the net tonight. It was 0-0, but it was a battle. It was typical Rice-Houston game."
"We wanted to get a win heading into the conference tournament, but playing as hard as we did is something we can build-on," Adams added. "The seniors led the way. They are an unbelievable class and have contributed so much to the program and to the University. They are fantastic ambassadors for our program and I can honestly say they give their all every time they step on the field. One of the reasons we're so excited about the conference tournament is that we get to extend our season, and our seniors get an opportunity to play some more."
In addition to the loyal fans from both schools that were present for the match, the third-largest attended Rice home soccer game in school history was helped by the presence of the Owls' neighbors in the Medical Center. Some of the young patients from nearby Texas Children's Hospital were the Owls' guests for the game. In pregame warm-ups the Rice players were honored to wear gold-colored t-shirts that were specially designed by the TCH patients. The soccer team's exemplary relationship with the TCH patients and their families is due in part to the 2010 Owl senior class: Nesbit, Fitzsimmons, Taylor, Kate Edwards, Jordan Holloway and Meghan Erkel.
Rice moved to 8-8-3 overall and 5-3-3 in C-USA action. Houston is now 11-4-4 on the year and 6-2-3 in conference. The Owls have earned the C-USA's No. 5 seed for the tournament. The league will announce the official game times and release the tournament bracket over the weekend.
The game's complete box score can be viewed at the above links.