CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- On the eve of competing in the annual Conference USA Soccer Championship, the Rice duo of Samantha Chaiken and Jenny Fichera led a total of six Owls in earning postseason honors as the C-USA Midfielder and Defender of the Year, respectively, the conference office announced on Tuesday (Nov. 1).
In addition to the special Midfielder and Defender of the Year honors, both also earned First Team all-conference to lead a lengthy Rice honors list. The 14 C-USA head coaches collectively voted a total of six Owl players to all-conference status on either the First, Second or All-Freshman Teams. Junior forward Nia Stallings joined Chaiken and Fichera on the C-USA First Team. Senior defender Jasmine Ispokpunwu was named Second Team All-Conference USA. Rice rookies Samantha Colley and Erin Mikeska were named to the league's 12-player All-Freshman squad. There were eleven more honorees named to the C-USA Third Team. Rice and Western Kentucky were the only schools to have as many as four honorees on the first two teams.
Chaiken is a strong central midfielder who played even better than the preseason expectation where she was selected as a preseason all-conference honoree. The sophomore from Dallas started all 16 matches this season and is second on the squad with 1,442 minutes, more than 98.4 percent of the team's action with 90 or more minutes 13 times. Chaiken scored the game-winning goal on the road at LA Tech and she maintained a steady .355 shots-on-goal percentage for the full season.
Fichera's solid senior year included leading the team with 1,460 minutes and working on a Rice defense that recorded seven shutouts and held C-USA opponents to just 8.7 shots per league game. The native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, played 90 or more minutes in a game 15 times this year, and she also provided an offensive presence out of the backline by scoring two goals and ranking among the C-USA leaders with seven assists.
All the honors were announced just one day before the week-long conference tournament is set to begin on Wednesday (Nov. 2). Joining Fichera and Chaiken with among the very highest of the annual C-USA honors was Charlotte's Martha Thomas and Megan Greene as the respective Offensive Player and Freshman of the Year. FAU's Sydney Drinkwater was named the Goalkeeper of the Year. Western Kentucky's Jason Neidell was named the 2016 C-USA Coach of the Year.
The six Rice all-conference honorees are all trained under the direction of head coach Nicky Adams. Now in her sixth full season at the helm of the program, Adams guided Rice soccer to an 11-4-1 overall record and to the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament after posting an 8-2-0 C-USA ledger. A native of El Paso and former collegiate All-American at Texas A&M who went on to play professionally, Adams owns a career coaching record of 68-41-20.
"I am so very proud of this entire team this year," coach Adams said. "The amount of players that were recognized as all conference players shows how highly respected our program is by the coaches in this league. I cannot be more proud of Jenny and Samantha for being named Defensive Player of the Year and Midfielder of the Year. These two young ladies absolutely love the game of soccer. They set a great example, and are diligent every day about how they approach the game and present themselves in front of their teammates, opponents, and fans. They are tireless workers and great teammates. They both are truly deserving of those honors.
"Nia has had a great 2016 campaign and has been extremely consistent for us," Adams said. "She has been huge for us in big moments and has been a major contributor. I am so proud of Jasmine to be recognized. We were so happy when Jasmine was granted a fifth year, and she has absolutely made the most of her opportunity. She has been a true leader and her gutty performances has helped us win games."
The Rice soccer team is next in action against longtime foe UTEP on Wednesday in the `third' game of the C-USA Championship. Start time against the Miners is set for 3:30 pm (Central Time) at the 49ers Soccer Complex on the University of Charlotte campus.
The league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament is on the line at the week-long, eight-team, single-elimination event. The tournament's championship final is scheduled for Nov. 6 at 10 am (Central Time), and slated for a live broadcast by ESPN3. A full listing of the 2016 C-USA Soccer All-Conference honorees is as follows:
2016 C-USA WOMEN'S SOCCER AWARDS
Offensive Player of the Year
Martha Thomas, Charlotte
Midfielder of the Year
Samantha Chaiken, Rice
Defensive Player of the Year
Jenny Fichera, Rice
Goalkeeper of the Year
Sydney Drinkwater, Florida Atlantic
Freshman of the Year
Megan Greene, Charlotte
Coach of the Year
Jason Neidell, WKU
All-Conference USA First Team
F: Martha Thomas, Charlotte
F: Kathryn Sloan, Louisiana Tech
F: Nia Stallings, Rice
MF: Sydney Arnold, Marshall
MF: Samantha Chaiken, Rice
MF: Aleah Davis, UTEP
MF: Nicole Roseland, WKU
D: Erica Burt, Florida Atlantic
D: Jenny Fichera, Rice
D: Olivia Fitzgerald, WKU
GK: Sydney Drinkwater, Florida Atlantic
All-Conference USA Second Team
F: Megan Greene, Charlotte
F: Sammy Rowland, Florida Atlantic
F: Rachel Holden, North Texas
F: Iris Dunn, WKU
MF: Katie O'Neill, Charlotte
MF: Marchelle Davis, North Texas
MF: Kathryn Hill, Old Dominion
D: Nomvula Kgoale, Louisiana Tech
D: Jaclyn Stroud, Old Dominion
D: Jasmine Isokpunwu, Rice
GK: Allison Leone, WKU
All-Conference USA Third Team
F: Jordan Sackaris, Marshall
F: Iris Achterhof, Old Dominion
F: Katie Richmond, Southern Miss
F: Chandler Backes, WKU
MF: Mary O'Hara, Florida Atlantic
MF: Asta Arnadottir, Florida Atlantic
MF: Becky McMullan, Southern Miss
D: Riley Orr, Charlotte
D: Sydney Navarro, Middle Tennessee
D: Carissa Sanders, North Texas
GK: Alyssa Palacios, UTEP
Conference USA All-Freshman Team
Megan Greene, F, Charlotte
Riley Orr, D, Charlotte
Mary O'Hara, MF, Florida Atlantic
Elisha Holmes, F, Florida Atlantic
Jaelyn Peeples, MF, Louisiana Tech
Jordan Sackaris, F, Marshall
Salera Jordan, F, Middle Tennessee
Erin Mikeska, MF, Rice
Samantha Colley, GK, Rice
Lauren Crenshaw, F, UTEP
Jordyn Lacy, F, UTSA
Chandler Backes, MF, WKU