Rice Soccer Picked as Preseason Favorite In C-USA Coaches' Poll

Aug. 4, 2015

IRVING, Texas -- Led by standouts Lauren Hughes and Jenny Fichera as the respective preseason offensive and defensive players of the year, as well as Holly Hargreaves on the all-preseason list, the Rice soccer team was picked first in the 2015 Conference USA head coaches' poll, the league office announced on Tuesday (Aug. 4).

The preseason all-conference honors were determined on a vote of the 14 C-USA head soccer coaches. It is the first time since Rice started its soccer program in 2001 that the team has been tabbed as the preseason league favorite. On two occasions the Owls were picked as high as second (in 2013, and 2002 as a member of the Western Athletic Conference).

In 2015 Rice returns seven of 11 starters that posted a school record-tying 14 wins, won the C-USA Tournament Championship and advanced to national postseason play in the NCAA Tournament. The Blue & Gray return a total of 20 letterwinners from a year ago and welcome in a talented new recruiting class.

Owl senior forward Lauren Hughes was selected to repeat as the preseason offensive player of the year - the same honor she earned at the end of 2014 campaign when she tied the school records for goals (14) and points (35) in a single season to go along with a team-high seven assists. The Ottawa, Ontario, native has already set new Rice records for career goals (32) and points (84), and during one stretch last season she scored goals in seven-straight games.

Preseason defensive player of the year Jenny Fichera followed a solid freshman year with an even better sophomore season in 2014. The native of Ann Arbor, Mich., finished third on the team in total playing time, recording 90 or more minutes in 18 of the Owls' 21 matches. She was one of the leaders on a Rice defense that posted 11 complete game shutouts and held opponents to just 12.5 shots per game. Fichera has been a defensive starter for all 39 games of her collegiate career, but she also provides a distinct attacking presence out of the back that included four goals and five assists.

Two-time all-region honoree Holly Hargreaves closed out her junior season with a starting streak that has now reached all 60 matches of her collegiate career. The forward from New Hope, Pa., ranked among the conference and NCAA national leaders in goals (10), shots (84) and shots on-goal percentage (.440). Hargreaves' sensational 2014 season included breaking the Rice school record for goals in a single game (4), career game-winning goals (12), and career shots (209).

Rice head coach Nicky Adams, the 2014 Conference USA Coach of the Year, explained that the preseason honors equate directly to which players stand out in the eyes of 14 different head coaches. Now in her fifth full season at the helm of the Rice program, Adams was pleased about the Owls' individual recognition in such a competitive league.

"These our great honors for our players, and they are very deserving of these preseason accolades," said Adams on Tuesday, the same day the Rice soccer players reported to campus for the first time this season. "It is great to see how well respected our program is amongst all the coaches in our league. Conference USA soccer is extremely challenging, and this upcoming season will be no different."

Rice and North Texas had the most individual preseason honors (3) of any of the C-USA schools. The Mean Green was picked second in the coaches' poll while Charlotte was selected third.

The Owls may have just reported for preseason training, but the team is scheduled to host an exhibition match on August 15 (Saturday) against the University of Houston at 7 pm. Rice then welcomes national power Texas A&M to South Main in its official 2015 season/home-opener on August 21. Start time for the match against the No. 5 ranked Aggies is set for 7 pm. Results of the 2015 C-USA Soccer Coaches preseason poll are as follows:

2015 C-USA PRESEASON OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Lauren Hughes | Sr. | F | Rice | Ottawa, Canada

2015 C-USA PRESEASON DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Jenny Fichera | Rice | Jr. | D | Ann Arbor, Michigan

2015 C-USA PRESEASON ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM
Martha Thomas | Charlotte | So. | F | Weston, Florida
Marie Egan | FIU | Sr. | D | Littleton, Colorado
Claire Emslie | Florida Atlantic | Sr. | M | Penicuik, Scotland
Kathryn Sloan | Louisiana Tech | Jr. | F | Kansas City, Missouri
Kelly Culicerto | Marshall | Sr. | MF | Charlotte, N.C.
Rachel Holden | North Texas | Jr. | F | Lancaster, Texas
Jackie Kerestine | North Texas | Sr. | GK | Euless, Texas
Karla Pineda | North Texas | Sr. | MF | Houston, Texas
Jenny Fichera | Rice | Jr. | D | Ann Arbor, Michigan
Holly Hargreaves | Rice | Sr. | F | New Hope, Pennsylvania
Lauren Hughes | Rice | Sr. | F | Ottawa, Canada
Aleah Davis | UTEP | Jr. | MF | Hewitt, Texas

2015 C-USA PRESEASON POLL
(as selected by C-USA coaches)
1. Rice
2. North Texas
3. Charlotte
4. UTEP
5. Marshall
6. FIU
7. Florida Atlantic
8. Middle Tennessee
9. Old Dominion
10. WKU
11. Louisiana Tech
12. UAB
13. UTSA
14. Southern Miss


 

 

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