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​Soccer jumps in national rankings with perfect conference start


Photo by Charlene Pan

By Preetham Bachina     9/26/17 11:19pm

Rice soccer just keeps climbing higher. By holding Louisiana Tech University to a meager four attempted shots, the Owls flew past the Lady Techsters with a 2-0 victory last Thursday. With the win, Rice moved into the national top-25 in the Ratings Percentage Index for the first time this season.

Despite rain soaking the field earlier that day, the Owls got off to a hot start. Freshman forward Rebecca Keane led the offensive charge and scored the first goal for the Owls in the 13th minute of the game with an assist from senior midfielder Samantha Chaiken. With her performance, Keane brought her season tally to five goals and one assist. According to Keane, a team effort allowed her to play as well as she did Thursday.

“All together as a team, I thought we did really well,” Keane said. “We kept the ball and kept changing the point of attack.”

Rice wasted no time doubling the lead early in the second half. Chaiken scored an unassisted goal in the 47th minute of the game off a deflection to put the Owls ahead 2-0 and strengthen their grip on a perfect start to the Conference USA season. On Monday, Chaiken was named the C-USA Offensive Player of the Week for the second consecutive week. She said she was pleased with her overall performance, especially given the unique defensive-oriented formation LA Tech was playing.

“I feel like I played pretty well getting in the pocket and strengthening our point of attack,” Chaiken said. “LA Tech plays [with five defenders], which is basically unheard of.”

Head coach Nicky Adams expressed similar sentiments regarding LA Tech’s formation. According to Adams, Rice had spent the week prior to the game trying to outmaneuver LA Tech’s style by finding ways to get around the horde of defenders.

“We knew when they were going to come play us that they would put numbers behind the ball,” Adams said. “All week long we were working on flank play and trying to get inside the defense.”

Adapting to opponents has become a big theme during the Owls’ season. According to Adams, continued success depends on their ability to adjust to whatever comes their way.

“We see so many different [styles] of play,” Adams said. “What I like is that we’re able to tackle any type of formation or style teams are putting against [us] and still play our game.”

The victory over the Lady Techsters puts the Owls’ record at 5-2-1 on the season and 2-0-0 in the conference. Rice is now ranked No. 25 in the country in the RPI, and its only two losses have come on the road to teams ranked No. 5 and No. 33. The next highest ranked team in C-USA is the University of Alabama at Birmingham, ranked No. 82.

Up next, the Owls will travel to Western Kentucky University for another conference matchup on Sept. 28. They will then face the University of Southern Mississippi on Oct. 1 to conclude their first conference road trip of the season. Rice is looking to build on its 2-0-0 start to the conference season and earn its first C-USA championship since 2014.

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