Oct. 6, 2011
THIS WEEK: The Rice soccer team, 8-3-1 on the season and 3-1-0 in Conference USA action, is back on the road for a pair of crucial C-USA games this weekend. The Owls face league foes Colorado College and UTEP on Oct. 7 & 9, respectively. Friday's start time with the second-place Colorado College Tigers (5-4-3, 3-0-1) is set for 5 pm (Central time) in Colorado Springs, Col. Sunday's action against the UTEP Miners (9-3-1, 3-1-0) is at 2 pm (Central) in El Paso.
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 released its latest Ratings Power Index (R.P.I.) on Oct. 5 and the Owls have moved into the national Top 25. Rice's R.P.I. was ranked 24th 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 Owls held the No. 5 spot again this week (Oct. 3). 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.
FRESHMAN KEEPER AMY CZYZ EARNS C-USA HONOR
IRVING, Tex. - Rice freshman goalkeeper Amy Czyz has been named the Conference USA defensive player of the week for soccer the league office announced from its headquarters in Irving, Tex., on Monday (Oct. 3). Colorado College sophomore forward Lauren DiGregorio received has been named the C-USA offensive player of the week... In a pair of C-USA league games last week Czyz helped the Owls improve to 3-1 in conference by posting back-to-back shutout victories at SMU and Tulsa, respectively. Czyz played all 180 minutes in goal, where she posted a combined total of six saves. The standout from Danville, Calif., improved her season/career record to 8-3-1 and her steady play is one of the reasons behind the Owls' soccer success this year. Czyz is one of only two freshman keepers in the nation ranked among the NCAA Division I Top 25 in goals-against average (0.49). Rice soccer has already matched last season's win total and the team has earned a regional ranking by the coaches association... Czyz is the second Owl this season to earn a C-USA weekly honor. Last month sophomore midfielder Jessica Howard was named the offensive player of the week (Sept. 5). She is Rice's first defender of the week since Catherine Fitzsimmons on Oct. 11, 2010... Lauren DiGregorio scored the game-tying goal during the 75th minute that gave Colorado College a 1-1 tie at No. 25 UCF on Sunday. She also set up CC's second goal during the 3-0 victory at Southern Miss on Sunday and has figured in at least one goal during five of CC's last six games.
SIZZLING CZYZ: Amy Czyz has been sound-and-solid in 12 starts this season. So far the Rice rookie keeper has maintained an .824 save percentage and an 0.49 goals-against average. Czyz' goals-against average is ranked 15th among the current NCAA leaders. The California native is one of only two freshmen in the nation's Top 15 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 9.3 shots per game. That's not a lot of chances over a 90-minute contest. Yes, there are a lot of games left in the 2011 season, but for now that mark would be the 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 1.9-to-1. The team's advantage in corner kicks meanwhile has been a steady 1.3-to-1.
PREVIOUS OUTING: Owls Top Tulsa 2-0 On The Road
TULSA, Okla. - The Rice soccer team got an early goal from Alex Burton, a late goal from Annie Kadota, and a second-straight complete-game shutout from goalkeeper Amy Czyz to claim a 2-0 Conference USA road victory at Tulsa on Oct. 2 at Hurricane Stadium in Tulsa, Okla... Not only was the C-USA win Rice's second in a row on the current weekend road swing, the Owls have now already matched their win total (8) from all of last season. Rice improved to 8-3-1 on the season and 3-1-0 in league action to remain in a tie for third place in the conference standings... After a dramatic and late-found victory at SMU on Friday night, Rice established a crucial early lead against the Golden Hurricane on Alex Burton's second goal of the season. In the 10th minute of the contest the Owls' leading scorer, Jessica Howard, had both the ball and full attention of the Tulsa defense in the attacking third. As the Hurricanes worked to contain Howard, who entered the week tied for seventh in the nation in game-winning goals, she passed the ball to Burton on the left wing... Burton began the year as a starting forward for the first five games of the season, but she had been contributing off the bench for the last six games. She might have even drifted off the radar of the last few opponents, but Rice head coach Nicky Adams liked what she saw from Burton in the practices leading up to Sunday's game and put her back in the starting lineup for the first time in a month... Burton responded... At just 10 minutes into the contest, Burton got the ball from Howard and unleashed the first shot of the game from 12 yards out on the left side. She found the back of the net to give Rice a lead it would not relinquish. Her second goal of the season was her first since defeating McNeese State in August... "Alex had a great week of practice and she's been working on the things we asked her to work on," coach Adams said. "That's the reason she got the start today and she did really, really, well. I thought she had a great game. The coaches and her teammates have full-confidence that Alex can be dangerous for us. We have a lot of depth this season where different players can start and score."... "That first goal was so important," Adams added. "Any time you're on the road and get a goal early, that is huge. We played better after we got it. I thought we gained a lot of momentum (after the goal) and that was important because Tulsa is a very good team. Their work ethic was really good and they had high-energy."... The good news was the Owls had an early lead. The bad news was it was still extremely early, on the road, and against a high-energy team. The Blue & Gray needed another big game on defense... Freshman keeper Amy Czyz answered with another complete-game shutout and three more saves to match the three she had in Friday's SMU win. In just 12 games that have made up her Division I career so far, Rice's rookie keeper has maintained an austere 0.49 goals-against average and a solid .824 save percentage... Rice had the lead and the defense was in-gear, but things could still be just a little safer with some insurance. It didn't take long for two of coach Adams' lineup moves in the second half to quickly pay a dividends... In the 69th minute defender Britton Cartwright came off the bench to get in the game. No more than 30 seconds after Annie Kadota checked into the game in the 77th minute, she and Cartwright teamed together for the much-needed insurance goal... Cartwright won the ball on the wing and played it to Kadota 18 yards out. Kadota turned and blasted away on a shot attempt and found the back of the net for a 2-0 Rice lead. The goal was Kadota's second, and the assist was Cartwright's first, of the year... "Again, our depth is one of our strengths," coach Adams explained. "It's just a matter of when we're connecting passes, we're getting opportunities. We help ourselves when we play together. I didn't think we had the best run of play in the first half, but the second half I think we did a much better job. We maintained possession and forced Tulsa to defend us a little more in the second half... "In the second half the girls did well finding more space to attack," she said. "(Senior midfielder) Hope Ward did a great job out on the flank and getting first forward for us. The midfield was a battle out there today. We knew it would be. We're happy with our performance. It's just so exciting to win a conference game on the road." ...Rice finished with a 12-6 advantage in shots and a 7-4 lead in corner kicks. For the season Tulsa's record moved to 7-4-2 overall and 1-2-1 in C-USA play.
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 12th 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.
NEWS & NOTES:: Rice is off to its best start to a season since 2007 when that team also began the year with an 8-3-1 ledger. The current 2011 squad has already matched the 2007 team's seven defensive shutouts the squad posted that year... With a 1-0 win at SMU and a 2-0 victory at Tulsa, the Owls posted back-to-back shutouts in C-USA regular season road games for the time since 2009 (games at Colorado College and UTEP)... In four league games the Blue & Gray have out-scored C-USA opponents by a margin of 7-to-1... Rice has been distributing the attack equally across the roster. In 12 games, nine different Owls have scored goals, while 12 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 (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: Colorado College is in sole possession of second place in the C-USA standings with a 3-0-1 league record. The Tigers are fresh off an impressive 1-1 tie on the road at No. 25 ranked UCF last weekend. Team is a solid 4-1-1 at home... Speaking of tough home records, the UTEP Miners are an eye-opening 7-0-0 when playing at home in El Paso. Rice and UTEP are longtime rivals dating back to when both schools were members of the Western Athletic Conference. In 13 career meetings, Rice leads the all-time series with UTEP, 8-5-0.
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, Oct. 7 Rice at Colorado College, 5 pm
Southern Miss at East Carolina, 6 pm
(25) UCF at Marshall, 6 pm
SMU at (6) Memphis, 7 pm
Tulsa at UAB, 7 pm
Houston at UTEP, 8 pm
Sunday, Oct. 9
Southern Miss at Marshall, Noon
UCF at East Carolina, 1 pm
Tulsa at Memphis, 1 pm
SMU at UAB, 2 pm
Rice at UTEP, 2 pm
Houston at Colorado College, 3 pm