THIS WEEK: An automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament is on the line when the Rice Soccer team competes in the 2016 Conference USA Soccer Championship this week in Charlotte, N.C. The Owls meet longtime rival UTEP in the first round of the eight-team tournament at 3:30 pm (Central Time) on Wednesday (Nov. 2). 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 (11-4-1 overall, 8-2-0 in conference) heads into the weekend as the No. 2 seed in the tournament as the regular season league-runner-up.
WIN STREAK REACHES SEVEN-STRAIGHT: Rice has won each of its last seven-straight matches, all of which have been C-USA league games. The win streak is currently tied for the sixth-longest active streak among Division I women's teams heading into this weekend... The current win streak is also tied for the longest in the program's history. The 2014 squad won seven in a row from Oct. 19 all the way through 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 11-win tally is tied for the fifth-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 week 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.
LAST WEEKEND: BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Sophomore Annie Walker scored the game-winning goal in overtime to lift the red-hot Rice soccer team, now winners of a school record-tying seven-straight matches, to a 1-0 Conference USA road victory over Florida Atlantic Friday evening in Boca Raton, Fla... Rice improved to 11-4-1 on the season and 8-2-0 in Conference USA league play to equal the program's longest win streak... The annual showdown of C-USA's two Owls teams was practically as even as the nicknames themselves. In the 37th minute FAU made a nice team-save on a Samantha Chaiken's header, but both squads volleyed almost identical shots, saves and corner kicks for the first 90 minutes. This Owls-v-Owls required extra time to determine the outcome, and it was only the second time this season for Rice to go past 90 minutes... In the 92nd minute Rice stayed-out of trouble as defenders got in front and blocked Sammy Rowland's hard shot from inside the 18 on the left side. In the 97th minute, Rice junior forward Nia Stallings corralled a loose ball deep on the left wing but had just too sharp an angle and not enough time to try and turn for a shot of her own. The FAU defense meanwhile was converging quickly, so Stallings instead played the ball back out in front of the goal... That's where Annie Walker was charging-in with a better, straight-on, view. The sophomore from Michigan needed only to settle Stalling's serve, wind-up and fire home a shot to the right side of the goal. The ball found the back of net for Walker's third goal of the season and her first game-winner of the year... The Rice trio of Walker, Chaiken and Marissa Topolski all shared the game's individual lead with three shots. Rice held a 15-11 advantage in shots and 5-4 final margin in corner kicks. Rice freshman goalkeeper Samantha Colley finished the night with seven saves, just one off her career-high. The shutout was Rice's seventh of the season and third in as many games.
HAIL SENIORS: The Rice senior fab-five of Jenny Fichera, Jasmine Isokpunwu, Madeleine Lundberg, Mia Schmolze and Ruth Seleznick was honored before the start of the Oct. 21 match vs. Old Dominion. It was the group's final home weekend at Holloway Field last weekend.
THE RICE -- UTEP SERIES: Rice and UTEP are longtime rivals dating back to when both schools were members of the Western Athletic Conference, including the Owls' very first year to start a soccer program in 2001. When the teams clash on Wednesday, the Owls and Miners will meet for the 20th time overall. That will be the most games that Rice has faced any one opponent, a full two more times than when the Owls have faced state foe SMU. In 19 career meetings, Rice leads the all-time series with UTEP 11-6-2. The Owls are 1-0-1 when facing UTEP at a neutral site, and 2-1-1 when playing in a league's postseason tournament. In 2005 Rice beat a sensational Miners squad 3-0 in Houston to win the program's first C-USA Tourney title.
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 Wednesday's match with a streak of starting every match in her collegiate career, now 74-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 ninth 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 six matches Topolski has climbed from ranking sixth on the team with eight shots, to the team leader now with 37 shot attempts.