THIS WEEK: The Rice Soccer team is back out on the road for a third-straight Conference USA league match on Oct. 14. The Owls play at Middle Tennessee on Friday at 7 pm. In the below video head coach Nicky Adams previews the upcoming C-USA clash.
QUICK ON THE OWLS: The 2016 Rice soccer team (7-4-1 overall, 4-2-0 in conference) heads into the weekend tied for second in C-USA standings. The Owls return seven of 11 starters from last season's squad that went 10-7-2 and qualified for the conference tournament. A total of 19 letterwinners return from a year ago and seven newcomers have already made a major impact on the season.
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 64-41-20. 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: – No doubt about it, last weekend was big. Rice soccer won its third-straight match with a pair of C-USA road victories at UTSA (Oct. 7) and UTEP (Oct. 9). With perhaps its strongest showing of the season the Owls stormed to a convincing 3-0 conference shutout Sunday afternoon in El Paso… Rice jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first half on the strength of a 13-4 advantage in shots and 5-0 margin in corner kicks. The Owls added one more insurance score in the second half for a 3-0 final. In losing a rare game at home UTEP dropped to 9-4-2 overall and 2-3-0 against the league… Two days before in San Antonio, Rice overcame a 1-0 first half deficit on the way to a 3-2 final. It was the usual 11 players to a side, but the team that had the 12-18 mph central Texas wind at its back for each of the respective halves played with a distinct advantage… UTSA had the wind in the opening period and built a 1-0 lead on an 8-7 edge in shots as well as a 6-1 margin in corner kicks. The wind didn't change direction nor speeds in the second half, but when the teams did the momentum and lead soon followed… Rice was able to dominate the second half, holding a 15-2 advantage in shots of which seven were on-goal. The Owls tied the game in the 64th minute when sophomore Darcy Mickalow stole a Roadrunner pass inside the UTSA keeper's box and quickly converted a close-range shot for her third goal of the year and tie for the most on the team this season. The Owls had found the equalizer, but the team was not quite finished. In the 70th minute UTSA deflected away Marissa Topolski's hard shot on goal, but Nia Stallings opportunistically played the offensive carom into the back of the net from six yards out for her second score of the season. In the 73rd minute, Stallings' shot on-goal was punch away only to have freshman Liannne Mananquil play the rebound near the keeper's box for her second goal of the season and a 3-1 Rice lead. UTSA was not going to go so quietly at home. In the 89th minute the Roadrunners rallied behind Alexis Alaniz' second goal of the night to pull back within one, 3-2.
THE RICE – MIDDLE TENNESSEE SERIES: Middle Tennessee leads the all-time series with Rice 1-0-1, with both of the matches being held last season. The teams finished in a 0-0 deadlock in Houston before the Blue Raiders claimed a 1-0 win in the opening round of the conference tournament a few weeks later. The Owls are making their first trip to Murfreesboro, Tenn.
TENNESSEE OWL: The lone player on the Rice roster from Tennessee has played a pivotal role for the team in this, her first season of Division I soccer. Freshman Samantha Colley is the Owls’ starting goalkeeper who hails from Columbia, Tenn. This year Colley has amassed 51 saves in ten starts while maintaining a steady .823 save percentage. Colley has also notched three complete game shutouts between the pipes.
GO ‘FICH’: Senior defender Jenny Fichera enters Friday’s match with a streak of starting every match in her collegiate career, now an even 70-straight games dating back to her freshman season of 2013. The native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, needs to start four more matches to tie for tenth on Rice’s all-time list for most games started. A defender by trade, Fichera also has two goals and four assists. Her 16 career assists is the fifth-high total in school history.
TIP TOP TOPOLSKI: When sophomore forward Marissa Topolski attempted nine shots at UTSA last Friday, it was the highest individual game total by an Owl this season and most since current pro player Lauren Hughes took nine shots in a win at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi last season.