Sept. 29, 2011
THIS WEEK: The Rice soccer team, 6-3-1 on the season and 1-1-0 in Conference USA action, is on the road for a pair of crucial C-USA games this weekend. The Owls face league foes SMU and Tulsa on Sept. 30 and Oct. 2, respectively. Friday's start time with the first-place SMU Mustangs (6-4-0, 2-0-0) is set for 7 pm. Sunday's action against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane (6-3-2, 0-1-1) is at 1:05 pm.
QUICK ON THE OWLS: The 2011 Rice soccer team features 16 letterwinners, including seven regular starters, from last season's team that went 8-8-4 and reached the Conference USA Tournament. A total of eight newcomers are on the squad, all of which are freshmen with elite club and high school experience. The Blue & Gray has four veteran seniors, led by Hope Ward in the midfield. Junior defender Amy Beger is a stalwart on the Owls' backline who earned all-region and conference honors last season.
HIGH R.P.I.: The NCAA has released its latest Ratings Power Index (R.P.I.) on Sept. 26 and the Owls are sky-high. Rice's R.P.I. was ranked 28th in the country based on wins, strength of schedule, and opponents' strength of schedule. The R.P.I. is the main criteria used to pick at-large selections for the 64-team NCAA Tournament to play for the national championship. View the latest NCAA R.P.I. here.
RANKED IN THE REGION: Rice is ranked fifth in the Central Region by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA). Rice debuted at No. 8 in the NSCAA's Central Region on Sept. 5 and held that spot for three weeks. The Blue & Gray moved up to fifth on Sept. 26 after blitzing C-USA rival UAB 4-0 and battling No. 9 ranked Memphis before falling by a narrow 1-0 margin. The regional ranking is the Owls' first while under the direction of head coach Nicky Adams. View the latest NSCAA Central Region poll here.
HEAD COACH NICKY ADAMS: Rice Director of Athletics Rick Greenspan promoted Nicky Adams to the Owls' head soccer coach on Nov. 15, 2010. Adams joined the Rice soccer staff in January of 2003 and was named associate head coach in 2006. She replaced former head coach Chris Huston (who started the Rice program in 2001) effective for the remainder of the 2010 schedule beginning with a home game against No. 9 BYU on Sept. 18. Adams, a former All-America soccer player and 2001 graduate of Texas A&M, has led the Owls to an 11-7-5 record since Sept. 18, 2010... She is assisted by coach John Adams (Cincinnati, 2003), who is in his second year with the team, Allison Martino (Texas A&M, 2008) who is in her first year at Rice, and Owl great Kate Edwards as the new student coach.
PREVIOUS OUTING: Owls Fall To No. 9 Memphis
HOUSTON -- The No. 9 ranked Memphis soccer team scored the lone goal of the game midway through the second half and seven goalkeeper saves helped the Tigers slip past Rice 1-0 on Sept. 25 at the Owls' Holloway Field in Houston... Rice's five-game home win streak came to an end while Memphis, who elevated into the national Top 10 with a win streak of their own, remained undefeated at 10-0-0. The Tigers challenged Rice early with 12 first half shots and a 7-1 ratio in corner kicks, but the Owls hung-tough to keep the league's top-offensive team off the scoreboard. The match was in fact deadlocked, 0-0, for the first two-thirds of the contest when the Tigers notched the lone goal of the game... In the 66th minute Memphis forward Melissa Smith dribbled in to Rice territory and as the Owl defense corralled the threat, Smith passed the ball to teammate Christabel Oduro 10-yards in front of the Rice goal. Oduro punched a shot from close range and found the back of the Owl net on the left-hand side. It was the only blemish the Owls had allowed on the day and the first goal Rice had surrendered in a week after posting a complete-game shutout against visiting C-USA foe UAB two days before... Memphis goalkeeper Elise Kuhar-Pitters made the 1-0 margin stand-up with seven saves. The Tigers finished with a 16-8 lead in shots, but seven of the Owls' eight attempts were on-frame and Rice head coach Nicky Adams knows that anything less than seven UM saves makes for a whole new ballgame... "Memphis is the best team we've seen so far this year, and No. 9 for a reason," coach Adams said. "They are so disciplined on both sides of the ball. They were able to disrupt what we've been able to do this season, so credit to them... "I am little disappointed with our technical abilities today," coach Adams added. "We broke ourselves down a lot so that was non-Rice-like, and we certainly can't have that when playing a ranked team. I think a lot of it was simply our body position so that when we'd get our first touch. We'd be too busy recovering, rather than being ready with the ball to make the next play. Memphis can pounce on play like that. We'll work on that, and work on bouncing-back."... Rice was led offensively by freshman Quinney Truong. The rookie forward from Fort Worth shared the game's lead with four shots, all of which were on-goal. Truong moved from the midfield to forward for the start of C-USA play and has responded to the new role with nine shots in the last two games. On the defensive side, the Rice backline crew of Lauren LaGro, Hayley Williams, Rachel Petmecky, Alexandra Trenary and Amy Beger answered Sunday's test of facing the top-scoring team in the league... Beger was one of six Owls to play all 90 minutes in a game where the midday temperatures climbed into high 90s. The day's final result was not what Beger, a preseason all-conference honoree, had hoped to reach, but the redshirt junior from Missouri saw a silver lining... "Not the result we wanted and we're not very happy, but that's kind of good sign about our team's confidence," Beger explained. "We thought we could win against a Top 10 team. We gave it our all and we were right-there for most of the game. A loss is not good, but you have to learn from it. I think we're a team that can do that. Coach told us if we keep working we could give ourselves a chance to face them again (at the C-USA Tournament to be held in Memphis in November). That's what we wanted to hear."
100 RICE WINS: On Sept. 4 of this season the Rice soccer program recorded its 100th career victory with a 4-1 win over longtime rival Sam Houston State. Rice University began varsity soccer for the first time in 2001 and quickly reached the 100-win plateau in the 2011 season.
GAME-WINNING GOALS: Sophomore midfielder Jessica Howard enters the weekend ranked tied for seventh in the nation with four game-winning goals. The Rice single-season school record for game-winning goals is five, set by Caitlin Robbins in the C-USA championship season of 2005.
SIZZLING CZYZ: True freshman goalkeeper Amy Czyz has been sound-and-solid in ten starts this season. So far the Rice rookie keeper has maintained a .786 save percentage and an 0.59 goals-against average. Czyz' goals-against average is ranked 21st among the current NCAA leaders. The California native is one of only two freshmen in the nation's Top 25 for goals-against average.
PLAYING SOME `D': Credit Owl defenders for helping out their freshman goalkeeper. The foursome of all-conference honoree Amy Beger, former C-USA all-freshman honoree Hayley Williams, junior Lauren LaGro and sophomore Rachel Petmecky have combined to hold opponents to just 9.5 shots per game. That's not a lot of chances over a 90-minute contest. Yes, it is still only halfway through the 2011 season, but for now that mark would be the second-best in school history for keeping foes from taking shots. The school record for fewest shots allowed average is 9.4 set back in 2003. Stellar defense helped that Owl team win seven games in a row and reach the Championship Final of the Western Athletic Conference Tournament.
MORE ON SHOTS: Rice has done so well in limiting shots that there has only two times this year the Owls were out-shot in a game by their opponent. Both games were against nationally-ranked opponents Memphis and BYU. This season the Owls have out-shot their opponent by a ratio 2-to-1. The team's advantage in corner kicks meanwhile has been a steady 1.5-to-1.
NEWS & NOTES:: Rice is off to its best start to a season since 2007 when that team also began the year with a 6-3-1 ledger... The Owls saw their five-game home win-streak come to an end with the 1-0 loss to No. 9 Memphis last Sunday... On the offensive side Rice has been distributing the attack equally across the roster. In ten games, eight different Owls have scored goals, while nine different players have all registered assists... Sophomore Jessica Howard quickly followed the first multi-goal game of her career against Western Kentucky (Sept. 17) with the second multi-goal game in a second-straight outing vs. UAB last Friday (Sept. 23). Howard became the first Owl to post two-goal games in back-to-back appearances since 2006... Senior midfielder Hope Ward has moved into a tie for second place on Rice's all-time list for career assists with 18. Ward now needs six more assists to tie the school record set during the 2007 season... The 0-0 tie at BYU marked the second-straight year for the Owls to register a tie to a Top 20 team on the road under watch of head coach Nicky Adams. In 2010 Rice tied No. 19 UCF 1-1 in a league game in Orlando, Fla.
VS. THIS WEEK'S OPPONENTS: SMU is tied for first in the C-USA standings with a 2-0-0 league record. The Mustangs are fresh off a 1-0 C-USA victory over No. 19 ranked UCF last weekend, and the team is now undefeated at home (5-0-0). SMU and Rice are longtime state rivals. The Mustangs lead the all-time series 9-3-1, but the foes are a deadlocked 3-3-1 over the last seven meetings since 2005... Tulsa owns a 6-3-2 record that is almost identical to the Owls. The Golden Hurricane are particularly tough at home this season with a 4-1-1 ledger. In ten career meetings Tulsa leads the all-time series with Rice 6-4-0.
BIG HOME CROWDS: The 1,481 fans that came to see the Rice-Houston game last season was the Owls' third-largest home soccer crowd in the program's history. Here's a closer look at Rice's big home crowds.
Rice's Largest Home Crowds Year Attn. Opponent 2001 1,752 Army 2001 1,487 Texas State 2010 1,481 Houston 2001 1,360 Houston 2005 1,276 Auburn 2005 1,273 UTEP 2005 1,087 Houston 2010 1,047 BYU
JUST FOR KICKS: Fans will once again have a chance to get some extra insight to the Owls' soccer team via RiceOwls.com. Over the course of the season the players will be featured one-by-one in a question & answer segment titled "Just For Kicks." Fans can check out the feature at the link at the top of this page.
OTHER C-USA ACTION: Conference USA's high-flying brand of soccer is in full-swing with league games this week. The C-USA weekend slate is as follows:
Friday, Sept. 30 Colorado College at Southern Miss, 4 pm
UAB at East Carolina, 6 pm
(6) Memphis at Marshall, 6 pm
UTEP at (25) UCF, 6 pm
Houston at Tulsa, 7, pm
Rice at SMU, 7 pm
Sunday, Oct. 2
Colorado College at (25) UCF, 11 am UAB at Marshall, Noon (6) Memphis at East Carolina, 1 pm UTEP at Southern Miss, 1 pm Rice at Tulsa, 1:05 pm Houston at SMU, 2 pm