THIS WEEK: The Rice soccer team is back in action with a pair of home matches this weekend. The Owls host Samford on Friday (Sept. 2) flowed by Sam Houston State on Sunday (Sept. 4). Both non-conference games are scheduled for a 7 pm start at the newly remodeled Holloway Field.
ON GAMEDAY: Friday is the Rice Soccer program's annual Teacher Appreciation Night. Houston area teachers can enjoy special ticket discounts and recognition at the match. Call the ticket office at (713) 348-OWLS for details.
QUICK ON THE OWLS: The 2016 Rice soccer team (1-1-0) returns seven of 11 starters from last season's squad that went 10-7-2 and made 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 58-38-19. 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 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.
LAST WEEK: The Owls had only one game last weekend. Junior Mary Claire Danilevics scored her first career goal in the 86th minute to help lift the Rice soccer team to 2-1 victory over crosstown foe Houston Baptist in its 2016 home opener at Holloway Field on Friday night (Aug. 26)... With the match deadlocked 1-1 and the game winding down in its final minutes, the 5-foot-11 Danilevics headed-in a corner kick from senior Jenny Fichera to put the Owls in front. It was Rice's first goal off a set piece this season and, better late than never, was on the team's 11th and final corner of the night after holding possession and controlling the tempo on the Huskies for most of the contest. Danilevics, a defender by trade but who can also use her height as an offensive option, became the 18th player in school history to have her first career goal also be the Owls' game-winning goal... Where Rice had a comfortable 11-1 margin in corner kicks as well as a 17-6 advantage in shots, the scoreboard was another matter. The match was scoreless at the intermission and almost at to the midpoint of the second half. In the 61st minute, Rice freshman Lianne Mananquil passed left to right to junior Aliza Wolfe outside the 18. Wolfe blasted away on her team-high fourth and final shot of the night and found the back of the HBU net. Her second goal in as many games put the Blue & Gray in front 1-0... The Huskies, however, would not go away so easily playing in the city of Houston for the first time this season. In the 66th minute, Allison Abendschein stole a Rice pass near the center circle and headed on her own toward the Owl goal. She converted on a close shot for her first goal of the year and a new 1-1 game... The Owls proceeded to have four solid shots with good looks at the goal before Danilevics broke the tie. Rice true freshman goalkeeper Samantha Colley made her collegiate debut midway through the second half and finished the night with a pair of key saves, including a diving stop on the ball with just 11 seconds left.
SAMFORD SERIES: Friday's match will mark the first all-time meeting between Rice and Samford.
SAM HOUSTON STATE SERIES: The Owls have won each of the four meetings against I-45 foe Sam Houston State. Last year Rice claimed a convincing 2-0 victory over the Bearkats downtown at BBVA Compass Stadium, the professional soccer home of both the Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash.