The Rice women’s soccer team didn’t finish the regular season with a perfect record in Conference USA play, but it didn’t lose either. Entering the game against the University of North Texas on Oct. 27, the Owls had a perfect conference record with nine wins, no losses and no ties. Rice held a 1-0 lead until the 89th minute before the Mean Green scored to tie the game at 1-1. The Owls were forced to settle for a tie to finish the conference season 9-0-1.
Rice now heads into the conference tournament as the No. 1 overall seed. The Owls face the University of North Carolina at Charlotte on Wednesday at 10 a.m. in Boca Raton, Florida in the first round. A win would put Rice in the semifinals against the winner of Old Dominion University against Louisiana Tech University.
The last time the Rice Owls won the conference tournament, the eight seniors on the team were all freshmen. Those seniors now look to end their final season accomplishing the same feat. According to senior midfielder Samantha Chaiken, a championship would bookend the seniors’ careers perfectly.
“This group started off extremely strong our freshman year, winning conference tournament, and now as seniors, we are ending our final year with a regular season championship and hopefully more to come,” Chaiken said.
Last year, the Owls, who were seeded number two overall, exited the C-USA tournament in the quarterfinals after losing 1-0 to seventh-seed University of Texas at El Paso. Rice was only shut out once this regular season in a tie against Baylor University. This year, the Owls are averaging 2.75 goals per game, which Chaiken said has impressed her.
“We have been very happy with our offensive performances thus far,” Chaiken said. “We will continue working on our finishing so that we can make the most of the chances we get during the tournament.”
When asked about some of the defining characteristics of the 2014 team that won the C-USA tournament, Chaiken said leadership and chemistry were key.
“The seniors made a difference because their leadership and dedication to the team empowered everyone else to rise to the occasion,” Chaiken said. “Our team chemistry in 2014 was also very good and similar to how it is this year. This year our seniors have been great leaders and our team gets along very well off the field.”
Sophomore defender Louise Stephens said the team has even more to achieve this season.
“We have had very clear goals from the beginning of the season,” Stephens said. “We wanted to win regular season, be ranked number one seed, and go on to win conference tournament. Our expectations have changed because they have only increased as we continue to get better.”
The Owls will now take on Charlotte Wednesday morning. In their last game against the 49ers, the Owls won 1-0 with junior forward Annie Walker scoring Rice’s only goal. Sophomore goalkeeper Maya Hoyer had six saves for Rice.