Rice Soccer 360! (a 360-degree photo of Rice Soccer)
THIS WEEK: The Rice soccer team, 9-5-2 on the season and 4-3-1 in Conference USA action, is back on the road this weekend. The Owls face league foes East Carolina and Marshall on Oct. 21 & 23, respectively. Friday's start time with the ECU Pirates (7-6-1, 2-5-0) is set for 6 pm Central Time. Sunday's action against the Marshall Thundering Herd (3-10-3, 1-5-2) begins at 11 am Central. Rice then closes-out the regular season slate with a showdown on the road against crosstown rival Houston on Oct. 28.
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.
BATTLING FOR A TOURNEY SPOT: There are three C-USA regular season games remaining on Rice's schedule. The Owls are tied for fifth in the C-USA standings and in a tight battle to make one of the seven remaining spots to play in the upcoming C-USA Championship Tournament. The top eight teams in the league qualify for postseason play. Memphis has already clinched one of the spots, so seven more are up for grabs as the teams make their way down the home stretch.
HIGH R.P.I.: The NCAA released its latest Ratings Power Index (R.P.I.) on Oct. 19 and the Owls are ranked 40th in the nation. Rice's R.P.I. was ranked 40th 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. Rice's RPI is the third-highest among teams in C-USA. View the latest NCAA R.P.I. here.
RANKED IN THE REGION: Rice is ranked eighth 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 zoomed 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 the following week (Oct. 3), before moving to seventh (Oct. 10). 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 14-9-6 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.
SIZZLING CZYZ: Amy Czyz has been sound-and-solid in 16 starts this season. So far the Rice rookie keeper has maintained an .804 save percentage and an 0.62 goals-against average. Czyz' goals-against average is ranked 24th among the current NCAA leaders. The California native is one of only three 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 10.9 shots per game. That's not a lot of chances over a 90-minute contest. There are three games left in the 2011 season, but for now that mark would be the fifth-best in school history for preventing 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 the defense has actually made a big contribution in helping the offense maintain possession and create shots. This season the Owls have out-shot their opponent by a ratio 1.5-to-1. The team's advantage in corner kicks meanwhile has been a steady 1.3-to-1.
PREVIOUS OUTING: Owls Coast Past Southern Miss 3-1
HOUSTON, Tex. - Rice freshman midfielder Lauren Busansky scored a pair of goals and had an assist to help lead the Rice soccer team to a 3-1 Conference USA victory over visiting Southern Miss Sunday afternoon at the Owls' Holloway Field in Houston... Four Rice seniors were honored before the start of the contest for playing in their final home game, but it was the Owls' freshmen of Busansky, Quinney Truong and Gabriela Iribarne who stole the show by accounting for the three goals and three of the squad's four assists... In only the second minute of the game Busansky, who was making her first college start, served a long pass in from the left sideline that found sophomore forward Jessica Howard at the Golden Eagles keeper's box. As the Owls' leading scorer, Howard had an answer for the USM defense that was already giving her their full attention. She quickly played the ball to Truong laterally with a touch, who then unleashed a hard shot from close range and found the back of the net on the right side. Two minutes in and the Owls were up 1-0 on Truong's second goal of the season... The 1-0 advantage held for the remainder of the half and stood deep into the second stanza. In the 77th minute, Iribarne played a right corner kick that found Busansky in traffic at the USM net. Busansky took control and fired a shot past the Golden Eagle keeper for her first career goal on her first shot of the day.
The score gave the Owls some extra room on the scoreboard, but the Blue & Gray wasn't finished. Two minutes later Rice was on the attack again, with Truong playing wide to Busansky out on the wing. Busansky took the shot attempt from 10 yards away and scored her second career goal in as many minutes... "It was a great day for our freshmen in the goal-scoring department, and all-around really," said Rice head coach Nicky Adams. "Our game plan was to get on the attack, and I don't know if I expected we'd get a goal as quick as we did today, but that was good to see that we were focused on what we wanted to do. To be ahead at 1:45 into the game we'll take it."... "After the goal our play dropped a little bit and we started making things a little more complicated than they needed to be," coach Adams explained. "Lauren (Busansky) is such a hard worker and she came-up big today. We needed some help in our midfield with Julia (Barrow) out today, and she (Busansky) had a great week of practice. She jump-started our attack and her final (statistics) line today shows how hard she's been working." ... Rice had stretched the margin to 3-0, but Southern Miss continued to play hard and rallied for a score in the 86th minute. Shelbi Moeller found teammate Mischa Tice at the keeper's box with a pass, who then scored her third goal of the season with a sliding shot to the right side... It was the lone damage done in a 3-1 C-USA final. Rice finished the contest with a 20-13 lead in shots and a 4-2 advantage in corner kicks. The Owls improved to 9-5-2 overall and 4-3-1 in C-USA action. Southern Miss fell to 3-11-3 on the year and 0-7-1 against the league... Coach Adams liked the freshmen, but she also had high praise for the four Owl seniors. It was the final home game for the veteran foursome of Marie Hunnell, Annie Kadota, Nikki Storness and Hope Ward... "I was really happy to get a win today on senior day," coach Adams added. "They all played today and did well to calm us down when things got hectic. The one of things this senior class has done for sure is give us the leadership a team needs. They've really brought all the classes together and helped us have a good season, and it's not over yet."
WHEN FIRST GOALS ARE ALSO GAME-WINNERS: True freshman Lauren Busansky scored her first career Rice goal on Oct. 16 vs. Southern Miss, and it officially proved to be the game-winning goal. Busansky became only the 15th player in school history, and the second Owl this season, to record a game-winning goal with her first career goal... On Sept. 30 freshman Quinney Truong, became the 14th Owl to make her debut goal the game-winner, the score that pushed Rice past SMU 1-0 on the road in Dallas... The other current Owls on the team who have made their first goal the game-winning score are: Hayley Williams (Oct. 1, 2010) vs. UTEP; Jessica Howard (Aug. 22, 2010) vs. Stephen F. Austin; Julia Barrow (Sept. 4, 2009) at Stephen F. Austin; Annie Kadota (Aug. 22, 2008) vs. Sam Houston State.
GAME-WINNING GOAL LEADERS: Sophomore midfielder Jessica Howard enters the weekend ranked tied for 27th 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.
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.
NEWS & NOTES:: The Owls'nine wins is the most for the program in three years (2008) and the 9-5-2 record is the best since 2007 when that team began the year with an identical 9-5-2 ledger... The current 2011 squad has already matched the 2007 team's seven defensive shutouts the squad posted that year... Junior midfielder Julia Barrow left Friday night's game against nationally-ranked UCF with an injury and on Sunday the Hermosa Beach, Calif., saw her streak of 42-consecutive starts come to an end... Lauren Busansky started in the midfield in Barrow's place and proceeded to assist on a goal in the second minute of the game. Busansky then went on to score her first two goals in the game. She finished the day with five points, the most by an Owl in three years and tied for the sixth-highest single point total in school history... In eight league games the Blue & Gray have out-scored C-USA opponents 12-6... Senior midfielder Hope Ward has moved into sole possession of second place on Rice's all-time list for career assists with 19. Ward now needs five more assists to tie the school record set during the 2007 season... On the offensive side Rice has been distributing the attack equally across the roster. In 16 games ten different Owls have scored goals, while 12 different players have all registered assists.
VS. THIS WEEK'S OPPONENTS: Fresh off a dramatic C-USA road victory in overtime last Sunday at SMU, the East Carolina Pirates enter Friday night's game with a 7-6-1 record. ECU junior Caty Butler, a Texas native from Boerne, leads the team in scoring with seven goals and three assists. Rice is 2-4-0 against East Carolina and has not beaten the Pirates since 2005... The second half of the challenging weekend is a road match at Marshall where only two teams have defeated the Thundering Herd all year, and one of those teams was No. 5 ranked Memphis (with the game-winning goal scored in the final minute!). Rice hasn't won at Marshall since 2007. Senior Angela DeSumma leads the Herd in goals and is second in the conference with 62 shots.
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. 21
SMU at Colorado College 4 pm
(8) Memphis at Southern Miss 4 pm
Rice at East Carolina 6 pm
Houston at Marshall 6 pm
UAB at (25) UCF 6 pm
Tulsa at UTEP 8 pm
Sunday, Oct. 23
Rice at Marshall 11 am
Memphis at UCF Noon
Tulsa at Colorado College 1 pm
Houston at East Carolina 1 pm
UAB at Southern Miss 1 pm
SMU at UTEP 2 pm