Rice Soccer 360! (a 360-degree photo of Rice Soccer)
THIS WEEK: The Rice soccer team, 9-7-2 on the season and 4-5-1 in Conference USA action, is on the road for its final game of the regular season on Friday (Oct. 28). The Owls face crosstown rival Houston (6-11-1, 3-6-1) at 7 pm at UH's Robertson Stadium.
THE QUALIFYING SKINNY: Rice, Houston and East Carolina are the three teams battling for the final two spots in the upcoming Conference USA Championship on Nov. 2-6. Six C-USA teams have already qualified for the league's eight-team postseason tournament in Memphis, Tenn. Rice and Houston essentially play a head-to-head match Friday to make the tournament. If the Owls win or tie at U.H., Rice qualifies. The Cougars must win as a tie is not enough to qualify. There is also a possible scenario where both Rice and Houston could qualify ahead of East Carolina: if U.H. defeats Rice and ECU loses both of its two home matches this weekend against Marshall and UAB.
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.
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 14-11-6 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 18 starts this season. So far the Rice rookie keeper has maintained a .781 save percentage and an 0.77 goals-against average. Czyz' goals-against average is ranked 39th among the current NCAA leaders. The California native is one of only four freshmen in the nation's Top 40 for goals-against average.
PLAYING SOME `D': Credit Owl defenders for helping out their freshman goalkeeper. The primary defensive crew consisting of of all-conference honoree Amy Beger, former C-USA all-freshman honoree Hayley Williams, junior Lauren LaGro and sophomores Rachel Petmecky and Alexandra Trenary have combined to hold opponents to just 11.2 shots per game. That's not a lot of chances over a 90-minute contest, and 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 1.4-to-1. The team's advantage in corner kicks meanwhile has been a steady 1.2-to-1.
PREVIOUS OUTING: Owls Fall Sunday On The Road At Marshall, 1-0
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall scored the lone goal of the game in the 39th minute to claim a 1-0 Conference USA win over the visiting Rice soccer team Sunday afternoon at Sam Hood Field in Huntington, West Virginia... Marshall applied offensive pressure early and Rice freshman goalkeeper Amy Czyz was up to the task. The Owl rookie from Danville, Calif., posted a career-high six saves in the first 36 minutes of the game. In the 39th minute Marshall midfielder Sarah Vinson passed to Angela DeSumma, who found the back of the Owl net on a shot for her fifth goal of the season... Rice bounced back to outshoot the Thundering Herd 9-4 in the second stanza. The Blue & Gray was paced by tandem of junior Alex Burton and sophomore Jessica Howard, who shared the team lead with four shots including two each that were both on-goal. Marshall goalkeeper Lindsey Kerns finished with a total of five saves in the contest... The Owls completed the rugged two-game weekend road swing, that also included a Friday night game at C-USA foe East Carolina, still looking to add to its 13-point total in the C-USA league standings. Rice is now 9-7-2 on the season and 4-5-1 in C-USA. Marshall improved to 4-11-3 on the year and 1-7-2 in conference... "We did not execute our game plan today, and I am very disappointed in our results this weekend," said Rice head coach Nicky Adams. "Our expectations are much higher for this program. We can still help ourselves. Our task ahead is now very clearly defined and we will go to work this week to play our best."
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.
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)... The current 2011 squad has already matched the 2007 team's seven defensive shutouts the squad posted that year... Junior midfielder Julia Barrow left the Oct. 14 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 13-10... 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.
ON HOUSTON: Houston tests opponents with a steady 14.0 shots per game. The team also has shut out opponents five different times.
THE RICE-UH SERIES: Rice and Houston have met every year since the Owls started its soccer program in 2001. The Blue & Gray lead the all-time series 5-3-2, including a 0-0 tie at Rice last season. Both teams are so keen to win this rivalry game that each meeting has been a closely contested battle. Seven of the ten Rice-UH soccer games have been determined by a narrow one goal margin. The only times there hasn't been a one-goal difference in the score was the 2007 game held at Rice (2-0), the 0-0 tie last season and the 1-1 deadlock in 2005... If you don't think these two teams get physical, then consider there were three times as many fouls called in last year's Rice-UH soccer game (27) than there were in the most-recent Bayou Bucket football game (9) - won by Rice 34-31 in 2010..
NOT AS COMMON AS YOU THINK: The Owls have played Houston every year since starting the soccer program in 2001 for a total of 10 meetings, but the Cougars are not the team Rice has faced the most times. Rice's three most-played opponents are UTEP (14 times), SMU (14 times) and Tulsa (11 times).
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 coming down the home stretch. The C-USA weekend slate is as follows:
Thursday, Oct. 27
Marshall at East Carolina, 6 pm
(9) Memphis at UAB, 7 pm
Friday, Oct. 28
(RV) UCF at Southern Miss, 4 pm
SMU at Tulsa, 6 pm
Rice at Houston, 7 pm
Colorado College at UTEP, 8 pm
Sunday, Oct. 30
UAB at East Carolina, 10 am