The Rice soccer team had not lost in a little over a month. That was the storyline heading into the team’s final home game against Middle Tennessee State University on Oct. 13, and the Owls continued that streak with a 4-2 win against the Blue Raiders.
The Owls strengthened their hold on sole possession of first place in Conference USA with the win. They expanded upon their team record for most wins to start conference play; the streak is now at seven. Despite the victory, the Owls’ shutout streak came to an end. Prior to their game against Middle Tennessee, the Owls had recorded five straight shutouts. The team totaled 10 goals in that five-game period. According to senior forward Nia Stallings, the team’s recent hot streak is a product of its cohesiveness.
“I think we’ve been playing so well as a team,” Stallings said. “It’s definitely not an individual effort.”
The team started off their season 3-2-1 before conference play with wins over Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi, the University of Houston and the University of Tulsa. Stallings said non-conference games helped the Owls prepare for games in conference play.
“[Non-conference games] are super tough games that prepare us so that we know how to get the job done and how to play each type of team because each team plays so differently,” Stallings said. “It’s just always great to get that experience and do well [in] them.”
Since finishing up their non-conference games early in the season, the Owls have won eight games in a row. Rice is outscoring its opponents 35-12 on the season. As of Oct. 10, the team is ranked No. 24 in the nation according to the United Soccer Coaches rankings. Stallings said the team has not yet accomplished its goals.
“Our goals are to keep winning,” Stallings said. “We want as many shutouts as possible.” According to senior midfielder Samantha Chaiken, the team is hoping to go far beyond the conference tournament.
“We want to win the conference tournament and we want to get to the NCAA tournament and win some games as well,” Chaiken said.
The home game against Middle Tennessee was the final home contest for Rice’s seniors. The seniors each had their numbers painted on the field and were honored at halftime. Asked about her favorite memories wearing the Rice uniform, Chaiken said she would always cherish her time with the Owls.
“Every single game and every single moment is going to be etched into my mind forever,” Chaiken said.
The Owls will now head to Norfolk, Virginia on Oct. 19 to take on Old Dominion University. They are hoping to continue their storybook season in their final three conference games before the C-USA tournament.