With just three conference matches remaining, the soccer team is currently looking at possibly missing out on the conference postseason tournament. What started off as a 3-1-0 record in Conference USA action has now devolved into a 4-3-1 record that leaves Rice in a three-way tie for fifth place and, in terms of a berth in the C-USA Championship Tournament, is on the outside looking in.
Two weeks ago, Rice headed north to take on Colorado College, a sort of Jekyll-and-Hyde type squad. While the Tigers had accumulated just a 2-4-1 mark in non-conference play, including a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of the University of Colorado, Conference USA play was a different story for the team. The Tigers entered their tussle with the Owls with a 3-0-1 record in conference matches, allowing just one goal during those matchups. Unfortunately for Rice, that total of one goal allowed went unchanged, as the Owls were blanked, 1-0. In the 18th minute of the match, the Owls' defense attempted to play the ball back to freshman goalkeeper Amy Czyz, but Colorado College's Brittney Lyman intercepted the pass and put the ball in the back of the net. The Owls had not trailed since their match against the University of Memphis and, despite tallying seven shots to the Tigers' five, could not even up the score by the end of the first half. The second half was more of the same, as Rice went into their most aggressive formation in hopes of knotting up the game. Rice finished the game with nine shots on goal compared to Colorado College's two, but the only statistic that mattered at the end was the 1-0 mark on the scoreboard.
Still, the Owls had to muster up the effort to finish their road trip on a strong note, as they met the University of Texas at El Paso in what turned out to be an exciting affair amidst the backdrop of the Franklin Mountains. Just four minutes into the match, junior forward Alex Burton gave the Owls the early advantage as she fired a shot into the back of the net to give Rice a 1-0 lead. UTEP would not back down as they came back just twenty minutes later with an equalizer as Miner junior forward Brittany Kindzierski scored her sixth goal of the year. Kindzierski was not done as she added another goal in the 31st minute to put the Miners up 2-1 as the Owls were staring at another loss. For the next 56 minutes, the Owls were frustrated as they could not find the equalizing goal. With six shots on goal in the second half, it looked like the goal might never come. Then in the 88th minute, sophomore forward Jessica Howard saved the day as she headed the ball home to tie the game up at 2-2 and send it into overtime. The Owls were hoping to steal the game and beat the Miners in overtime, but their effort was to no avail as the game ended up in a 2-2 draw.
With the tough trip to Colorado and West Texas behind them, the Owls were glad to return to campus and play some home games in front of their faithful fans. Last Friday, number 23rd ranked University of Central Florida had other ideas. The Owls survived a barrage of UCF shots in the first half as they were outshot 11-4, but held the Golden Knights to a scoreless tie at the half. The game was there for the taking going into the late stages, but UCF struck with a goal in the 71st minute thanks to junior forward Tishia Jewell. The Owls went on the attack looking for the tying goal as they fired five shots in the final 20 minutes of the game including two shots in the final minute by junior defender Amy Beger and Howard that were saved and soared high above the crossbar. Rice left the field defeated and dejected with a 1-0 loss.
With a 0-2-1 record in their last three games, the Owls were in desperate need of a win and they were hoping to get it against the University of Southern Miss. Last Sunday, the Owls did not need that much time to strike as they scored a goal in the second minute thanks to freshman forward Quinney Truong. The Owls could not put another one in the back of the net for the rest of the half as they went into the locker room with a 1-0 lead. Rice was still only up by one goal late, but they finally put the game away thanks to freshman defender Lauren Busansky, who added two goals in the 77th and the 79th minute to give the Owls a 3-0 lead. The Golden Eagles added a meaningless goal in the 86th minute to cut the lead to 3-1, which was the final score. It was what the doctor ordered as the Owls ended their three-game winless streak.
This week, the Owls are on the road as they travel to Greenville, N.C. to play East Carolina University on Friday and then travel to Huntington, West Va. to play the Marshall University on Sunday.