THIS WEEK: The Rice Soccer team wraps-up the 2016 regular season schedule on Friday (Oct. 28). The Owls travel to Boca Raton, Fla., to face Conference USA foe Florida Atlantic at 6 pm (Central Time). In the below video head coach Nicky Adams previews the upcoming C-USA games and the different events surrounding the busy soccer weekend.
QUICK ON THE OWLS: The 2016 Rice soccer team (10-4-1 overall, 7-2-0 in conference) heads into the weekend tied for first place 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.
WIN STREAK REACHES SIX-STRAIGHT: Rice has won each of its last six-straight matches, all of which have been C-USA league games. The win streak is currently tied for the fifth-longest active streak among Division I women’s teams heading into this weekend… On two occasions a Rice team has posted a school record seven-straight wins. The 2014 squad won seven in a row from Oct. 19 to the Championship Final of that year’s C-USA Tournament on Nov. 9. The 2003 Owls set the program’s win-streak record with seven-straight victories from Oct. 12 to Nov. 7.
DOUBLE-DIGIT “W’s”: Rice has reached the double-digit win plateau for the third straight year. The Owls have won at least ten matches in five of the last six seasons under head coach Nicky Adams. The current 10-win tally is tied for the eighth-most in a single season of Rice soccer. On two occasions the Owls won a school record 14 matches.
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 68-41-20. 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 – Goals by Marissa Topolski and Jasmine Isokpunwu paced the Rice soccer team to its sixth win in a row with a 2-0 Conference USA shutout victory over visiting Charlotte at Holloway Field in Houston on Sunday (Oct. 23) afternoon... Charlotte had Rice’s full attention by controlling some early possession and taking the game’s opening shot. The Owls managed to counter with some shot attempts of their own, but head coach Nicky Adams went to the bench in the 19th minute and the substitution worked to perfection. Soon after Topolski checked into the contest for the first time she found the back of the 49ers net for a 1-0 Rice advantage… In the 24th minute Charlotte defenders closed-in on junior Nia Stallings charging with the ball at the middle of the 18. Stallings was getting swarmed, but passed to Topolski breaking-in on the left wing and the New Jersey native blasted away on a shot from just outside the keeper’s box. The ball found the back right side of the 49ers’ net for Topolski’s second goal of the season and a 1-0 lead... The Blue & Gray was in front with the same margin well into the second half, but the veterans on the team well-knew that some insurance on the scoreboard would still be the safest route. In the 79th minute the experienced senior duo of Jenny Fichera and Isokpunwu teamed as they have done again-and-again in a multitude of training sessions the past four years. Though defenders by trade, the two Owls with more than 140-combined games were smooth and in-sync on this offensive set piece. Fichera served the ball from the right corner and found a leaping Isokpunwu in the keeper’s box. Isokpunwu headed-in her second goal of the season for some welcome breathing room at 2-0. Rice finished with an 8-7 advantage in corner kicks and held a sizable 22-7 advantage in shots – thanks in part to the steady defensive work from the veteran Owl backline. Almost lost in getting to six-straight wins was that the outcome was the team’s second-straight shutout after a 2-0 win over Old Dominion on Friday night. Owl freshman goalkeeper Samantha Colley continues to improve. She finished the day with three saves, including two in the second half.
HAIL SENIORS: The Rice senior fab-five of Jenny Fichera, Jasmine Isokpunwu, Madeleine Lundberg, Mia Schmolze and Ruth Seleznick made their final regular season appearance at Holloway Field last weekend. The group was honored before the start of the Oct. 21 match vs. Old Dominion.
THE RICE – FAU SERIES: The Rice-FAU series is all square, 1-1-0. Rice won the inaugural Owls-v-Owls meeting in 2014 by a score of 3-2. FAU bounced-back to win last year’s meeting in Houston by the same 3-2 count, only in double-overtime.
LOW SHOTS: The Rice backline has allowed an average of just 10.6 shots per game this season. The mark is the program’s best average for fewest shots allowed in nine years, and a dramatic improvement from the 17.2 shots per game the team allowed as recently as 2013. In 2003 Rice held opponents to just 9.4 shots per game, the fewest by an Owl team in school history.
GO ‘FICH’: Senior defender Jenny Fichera enters Friday’s match with a streak of starting every match in her collegiate career, now 73-straight games dating back to her freshman season of 2013. The native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, needs to start one more match to tie for tenth on Rice’s all-time list for most games started. A defender by trade, Fichera also has two goals and seven assists this season. Her 18 career assists is tied for the fourth-highest individual total in school history.
TIP TOP TOPOLSKI: When sophomore forward Marissa Topolski attempted nine shots at UTSA on Oct. 7, 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 in 2015. In the last five matches Topolski has climbed from ranking sixth on the team with eight shots, to the team leader now with 34 shot attempts.