IRVING, Texas - Led by senior Jasmine Isokpunwu as a preseason co-defensive Conference USA player of the year, and with a league-high three preseason selections overall, the Rice soccer team was picked second in the 2016 C-USA head coaches' poll announced on Tuesday (Aug. 2). Owls Jenny Fichera and Samantha Chaiken joined Isokpunwu on the 2016 preseason all-conference team.
The preseason all-conference honors and ranking were determined on a vote of the 14 C-USA head soccer coaches. It is the third time in the last four years for Rice to be picked as high as second by the annual poll. Defending regular season and tournament champion North Texas was picked first in the poll, while Florida Atlantic was third and Marshall fourth. The Owls had the most individual preseason honorees (3) among the C-USA schools.
A year ago Isokpunwu earned third team all-Central Region honors after starting every game for the Owls on defense. The Austin, Texas, native rarely came off the field for a team-high total of 1,754 minutes, or 98.7 percent of the of the team's total playing time. Fellow senior defender Jenny Fichera was second on the team in total minutes (1,732), and the backline duo helped Rice finished fourth in the conference for the fewest shots-allowed per game (12.2). Junior midfielder Samantha Chaiken battled through some nagging injuries last season to score a pair of game-winning goals while maintaining a steady .417 shots-on-goal percentage.
All the Owls trained under head coach Nicky Adams, now starting her sixth full season at the helm of the soccer program and her 14th year at the school overall. In 2016 Rice returns seven of 11 starters that went 10-7-2 and advanced the C-USA Tournament. The Blue & Gray return a total of 20 letterwinners from a year ago and welcome in a talented new recruiting class.
The Owls reported for preseason training on August 2, and the team has a short time to prepare of the 2016 season-opener. Rice meets longtime rival SMU in Dallas on August 19 (Friday), followed by a road game at national power Texas A&M on August 21. The squad's home-opener is set for August 26 against crosstown foe Houston Baptist. Results of the 2016 C-USA Soccer Coaches preseason poll are as follows:
2016 PRESEASON ALL-CONFERENCE USA TEAM
Name, School, Year, Pos., Hometown
Martha Thomas, Charlotte, Jr., MF, Weston, Florida
Erica Burt, Florida Atlantic, Sr., D, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
Sydney Drinkwater, Florida Atlantic, Sr., GK, Merritt Island, Florida
Kathryn Sloan, Louisiana Tech, Sr., F, Kansas City, Missouri
Sydney Arnold, Marshall, Sr., MF, Stafford, Virginia
Cameron Cox, Middle Tenn, Jr., MF, Roswell, Georgia
Rachel Holden, North Texas, Sr., F, Lancaster
Iris Achterhof, Old Dominion, So., F, Groningen, Netherlands
Samantha Chaiken, Rice, Jr., MF, Dallas
Jenny Fichera, Rice, Sr., D Ann Arbor, Michigan
Jasmine Isokpunwu, Rice, Sr., D, Austin
Aleah Davis, UTEP, Sr., D/MF, Hewitt
Hannah Chua, WKU, Jr., MF, Claremont, California
2016 C-USA PRESEASON OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Martha Thomas, Charlotte, Jr., MF
2016 C-USA PRESEASON DEFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
Erica Burt, Florida Atlantic, Sr., D
Jasmine Isokpunwu, Rice, Sr., D
Aleah Davis, UTEP, Sr., D/MF
2016 C-USA PRESEASON POLL
(as selected by C-USA coaches)
1. North Texas
3. Florida Atlantic
5t. Middle Tennessee
11. Louisiana Tech
13. Southern Miss