THIS WEEK: The Rice Soccer team is back on the road for a pair of crucial Conference USA league matches on Oct. 7 and Oct. 9. The Owls play at UTSA on Friday at 7 pm. The Blue & Gray then travel to longtime foe UTEP on Sunday at 1 pm (Central Time). In the below video head coach Nicky Adams previews the upcoming games this weekend.
QUICK ON THE OWLS: The 2016 Rice soccer team (5-4-1 overall, 2-2-0) is currently tied for fifth in C-USA standings. The Owls return seven of 11 starters from last season's squad that went 10-7-2 and made the conference tournament. The squad returns a total of 19 letterwinners from a year ago and welcomed 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 weekend with a career record of 62-41-20. 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 WEEKEND: HOUSTON -- In less than a minute after entering the game off the bench in the second half, the Rice sophomore tandem Darcy Mickalow and Annie Walker teamed for what proved to be the game-winning goal and assist (respectively) in the Owl soccer team's 1-0 Conference USA victory over visiting Southern Miss Sunday afternoon in Houston... Rice held a 7-4 advantage in shots and a 7-3 margin in corner kicks in the first half, but neither team had anything to show for their respective efforts on the scoreboard. In the second half, it was Southern Miss that quickly came out with a shot on goal in the 47th minute before forcing the Owls to deny the first of four more USM corner kicks in the period. The Blue & Gray was applying offensive pressure and creating chances, but needed something to go a little differently to break the 0-0 deadlock... With time ticking away, and Rice never having lost to nor even tied Southern Miss since the C-USA series started more than a decade ago, both Mickalow and Walker simultaneously checked into the match in the 75th minute. Just 46 seconds later, Walker broke free with the ball on the left wing inside the 18. As the USM defense began to close-in, Walker served to the right to Mickalow with some space. With a step and a stride, Mickalow quickly blasted away on a close shot attempt that found the back of the Golden Eagles' net on the left side... Mickalow's second goal of the season, and second in the last three Rice matches, gave the Blue & Gray a 1-0 lead but there was still some soccer to play. USM worked hard for three more shots on-goal, but Rice freshman keeper Samantha Colley was able to answer the challenge. The Owl rookie finished the day with six saves on the way to her second complete game shutout of the season.
THE RICE -- UTSA SERIES: Rice leads the all-time series with UTSA 5-1-0. The Owls are 2-1 vs. the Roadrunners when playing in San Antonio. Friday's match is the third time for Rice to play at UTSA in the last four years.
THE RICE -- UTEP: Rice and UTEP are longtime rivals dating back to when both schools were members of the Western Athletic Conference, including the Owls' very first year to start a soccer program in 2001. When the teams clash on Friday, the Owls and Miners will meet for the 19th time overall. That will be the most games that Rice has faced any one opponent, and surpass the 18 times the Owls have faced state foe SMU. In 18 career meetings, Rice leads the all-time series with UTEP 10-6-2. Sunday's contest, however, is the first meeting between the teams since 2014 when Miners topped the Blue & Gray 1-0 in overtime in El Paso. The teams have not played in Houston since 2012.