THIS WEEK: The Rice soccer team opens its 2016 season this Friday (Aug. 19) at longtime rival and state powerhouse SMU. Start time is slated for 7 pm in Dallas at SMU's Westcott Field. The non-conference clash is the first of two weekend road matches for the Owls. The Blue & Gray then play at No. 8 ranked Texas A&M on August 21 in College Station. Start time against the Aggies is set for 6 pm.
QUICK ON THE OWLS (0-0-0): The 2016 Rice soccer team returns seven of 11 starters from last season's squad that went 10-7-2 and advanced the C-USA Tournament. The Owls return a total of 20 letterwinners from a year ago and welcome in a talented new recruiting class.
COACH'S CORNER: Rice soccer is under the direction of head coach Nicky Adams, who is now in her sixth full year at the helm of the program. Adams enters the season with a career record of 57-37-19. A former pro player and All-America honoree while playing at Texas A&M, Adams was inducted into her alma mater's Athletics Hall of Fame last fall. Adams' coaching staff includes Courtney Sirmans in her second year with the program, and Brenton Saylor in his first year with the Owls.
PRESEASON HONORS: 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 EXHIBITIONS: The Owls were sound and solid in two recent preseason exhibition matches, defeating crosstown rival Houston 2-0 before a tough 0-0 tie with Southland Conference favorite Stephen F. Austin.
OPENERS: Since starting the soccer program in 2001, Rice is 5-8-2 in season-openers. In 2015 the Owls lost the season-opener to national power Texas A&M at home, 4-2. The Blue & Gray opened the 2014 season with a 1-0 loss on the road at Baylor, but went on to tie a school record with 14 wins and play in the NCAA Tournament. Rice is looking for its first win in a season-opening match since 2008.
THE RICE-SMU SERIES: Rice has faced SMU a total of 18 times since starting the program 2001, tied for the most number of times the Owls have played any opponent. The Owls have also played UTEP 18 times since 2001. The Blue & Gray is just 6-10-2 against SMU, but 4-1-2 in the last seven meetings. The Owls have not lost to SMU in Houston since 2006.