THIS WEEK: The Rice Soccer team is on the road for a Conference USA league match on Sept.22. The Owls play red-hot Louisiana Tech at 7 pm in Ruston, La. In the below video a Rice team captain, Samantha Chaiken, previews the upcoming match and updates the Owls' team-salute to a sidelined teammate.
QUICK ON THE OWLS: The 2016 Rice soccer team (3-3-1 overall, 0-1-0) 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 19 letterwinners from a year ago and welcome in a talented new recruiting class.
Hughes Comes Up Huge
Lauren Hughes late goal lifted the soccer team to a 1-0 win over LA Tech in Friday's C-USA semifinal. The Owls now advance to Sunday's Championship Final with a chance to win the league title and advance to the NCAA Tournament.
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: HOUSTON -- The North Texas soccer team rallied for a 2-1 win over the Rice Owls in the Conference USA opener for both teams Sunday night at Holloway Field in Houston... The Owls were on the attack early and quickly jumped the scoreboard. In the eighth minute, senior Jenny Fichera was brought down inside the 18 resulting in a penalty kick. She converted on the attempt for her second goal of the season and a 1-0 Rice advantage... Defending C-USA champion North Texas would not go away so easily. In the 24th minute Marchelle Davis avoided Rice traffic with a throw-in from the right side, but found teammate Rachel Holden in front of the keeper's box. Holden headed the ball in for the tying score, but the Mean Green wasn't finished. In 47th minute Rice shifted to Taylor Torres' counter attack on the right side, but Torres crossed a pass back to Holden in front of the goal. Holden punched-in the go-ahead score with her second goal of the night... "North Texas is always an extremely tough team to play against," said Rice head coach Nicky Adams. "They battle in such a direct way that it's really hard to get a hold of the ball and play your style with the amount of pressure they apply. I thought we started well, but then we let in a silly goal off of a throw-in. We weren't marked tight enough, and I think that change it a bit... "I am disappointed with the way we came out in the second half, allowing a counter attack that cost us," Adams explained. "After getting down a goal we did not respond like we needed to, and that was a tough lesson for this young team to learn."... In the second half North Texas was on the attack with a 7-5 lead in shots and a 5-0 advantage in corner kicks. Still, Rice was extremely close with the equalizer in the 77th minute. Sophomore Marissa Topolski made a move on the wing to beat a pair of defenders, then served the ball to sophomore Gabby Martinez hustling into the keeper's box. Martinez got air-born to get her head on the pass, but her shot was just over the crossbar... "That was a great service by Marissa," coach Adams said. "I think Gabby did a good job of getting up and winning the ball in the air. She's made that shot before. It just didn't get in the back of then net this time... "It's only the first conference game and we have a lot more to go," the head coach added. "This is a good match to get us to dig deep, and look at some areas that we have to change in order to do well the rest of the conference season."... Rice is now 3-3-1 on the season and 0-1 to start C-USA action. North Texas is 6-3-1 overall and 1-0 against the league.
THE RICE - LA TECH SERIES: Rice leads the all-time series with Louisiana Tech 3-0. Thursday's match is the first time for the teams to meet in two years, and the first time to be back in Ruston since the inaugural contest in 2013. The Owls followed the 3-0 victory in 2013 with a pair of wins in 2014, including a 6-0 score at home in Houston and then a 1-0 decision on the way to the C-USA Tournament title in Charlotte, N.C.