Nov. 2, 2011
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Rice true freshman Ashton Geisendorff scored the game-winning goal in double-overtime to lift the Owls' soccer team to a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over longtime state rival SMU in the opening round of the Conference USA Tournament Wednesday afternoon in Memphis, Tenn.
With the win the Owls (10-7-3 overall) advance to meet UTEP (11-7-3) in the tournament's semifinal round on Friday (Nov. 4) at 5:30 pm. The Rice-UTEP winner then advances to Sunday's Championship Final at 1 pm where the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament is on the line in a televised match.
Before Rice could think about advancing to Friday's second round, however, there was still a sizable obstacle in the way Wednesday. A talented SMU had eliminated the Owls from last season's C-USA tournament in an almost identical first round game (except that it ended going to a shootout after double-overtime).
After a 1-0 Rice victory over SMU in Dallas last September, the revenge-minded Mustangs set the tone early in Wednesday's showdown. The Ponies quickly built a 7-3 advantage in shots and struck for the first score of the game in the 32nd minute. After a Rice foul, Mustang sophomore Courtney Smith converted a free kick to the top left corner into her third goal of the season and a 1-0 lead.
"SMU did really well at putting us under a lot of pressure in the first half," said Rice head coach Nicky Adams. "They had a great goal to go up, 1-0. It was a phenomenal shot, no keeper could have stopped it. SMU was playing well, and we were playing one our worst halves of soccer we've had all season - but we were only down 1-0.
"We talked to the girls at halftime and it wasn't so much about strategy, it was about getting people's heads picked-up," coach Adams explained. "We were trying to get through about what's on the line here. Once the girls settled down and started working-better together, we created a lot more chances and had a better second half."
The Owls regrouped in the second stanza and pushed across the equalizer in the 70th minute. Senior Hope Ward played a corner kick to 6-foot Dallas native Hayley Williams in traffic in front of the Mustang goal. Normally a defender for the Blue & Gray, Williams jumped and headed the ball to the back of the SMU net. For Ward it was her team-leading fifth assist of the season and the 21st of her career to rank second on the Owls' all-time assist list. For Williams it was only her second goal of the season, but it was a new 1-1 game.
The score was still deadlocked after 90 minutes of regulation and moved into overtime where the first team to score claims the `golden goal' victory. Now Rice held the lead in shots, 3-2, but the score was still knotted-up. Only a minute into the second overtime, the Owls put it together.
Sophomore Rachel Petmecky made a long throw-in to Rice first team all-conference honoree Jessica Howard. As the Mustang defense closed-in to contain the Owls' scoring leader, Howard quickly played the ball to Geisendorff. The Owl rookie from Rowlett, Tex., blasted away on a shot from the right side. Her second and last shot of the game proved to be the game-winning goal, 2-1.
The goal was the first of Geisendorff's career. She became the 16th player in Rice soccer history to record a game-winning goal with her first career goal.
For the first time since 2007 the Owls are advancing in the conference tournament. In the regular season meeting between Rice and UTEP on Oct. 9, the teams battled to a 2-2 final in El Paso. UTEP defeated Colorado College in the day's first quarter final match 2-1.