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Soccer senior class leaves legacy

(11/04/15 5:27am)

Thursday night at Holloway Field, we witnessed the end of an era. Every year in college athletics a group of seniors leave, but the five seniors leaving from the soccer team have done amazing things to solidify themselves as one of the best senior classes in Rice soccer history.  To start, this class is the only class to secure multiple conference championships. In 2012, their freshman year, they won the Conference USA regular season with eight conference wins. Then after a disappointing 2013 campaign, the team rebounded in 2014 to win the C-USA tournament and secure a berth to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2005. A great class normally needs a star player. This class does not have just one star but two. Holly Hargreaves and Lauren Hughes have been causing havoc for C-USA backlines for four years. Hargreaves and Hughes are the best scorers in Rice history; Hughes will finish her career first in goals, assists and points while Hargreaves will finish second in goals and points. They have combined for six First Team All-C-USA honors (three each), Hargreaves was named C-USA Freshman of the Year in 2012, and Hughes was named C-USA Offensive Player of the Year in 2014 and 2015. Every superstar needs a strong supporting cast. First there is Danielle Spriggs, the outside midfielder who runs more 40-yard sprints in a game than most collegiate football players preparing for the NFL combine. Over the last two years, Spriggs has become a constant on the wing, starting every game and helping Hughes and Hargreaves put goals in the back of the net. Next is Jasmine Isokpunwu, who has helped solidify the defense. She has played center back and center defensive mid, but she is most exciting to watch in the air. Isokpunwu is so strong in the air, winning 50-50 balls as well as using her head to redirect corners or free kicks towards the back of the net. Her play this year earned her Second Team All-C-USA honors. Rounding out the five seniors is goalkeeper Kara Dugall. She has not started many games in her career, but has provided quality minutes in net when called upon. However, I know for all the seniors on this team, the past does not matter. What matters is this week, the 2015 C-USA championship and defending their C-USA title. The Owls enter the tournament as the fourth seed, which means a potential semi-final match up against the University of North Texas, the first seed in the tournament, in a rematch of last year’s C-USA title match. The two teams faced each other two weeks ago in Denton, TX on senior night, and the Owls dropped the match 2-1. Rice conceded two goals in the first 20 minutes. Afterwards, Rice calmed down and possessed the ball, however we were unable to complete passes in the offensive third and unable to put multiple quality shots on goal to test their keeper. Even in defeat, the team knows they can beat North Texas and wants a chance at revenge.Hopefully this senior class gets at least five more games and can add another accolade to its legacy: The first ever NCAA tournament victory in school history. 


Football win marks turning point

(10/20/15 8:06pm)

As a Florida boy, the afternoon thunderstorm was nothing new. One second I was trying to survive the 95-degree heat and the next I was heading for cover from the lightning. Normally, once the storm passes, life returns to the way it was before. However, life was very different after the thunderstorm in Boca Raton, Florida on Oct. 10, 2015. Before the storm, Rice football was losing to Florida Atlantic University. Rice had a horrible third quarter in which it ran 10 plays for seven total yards. FAU scored a rushing touchdown after multiple missed tackles, which gave them a 12-point lead with just under 14 minutes remaining in the game. My Owls looked flat, defeated and ready to return to Texas. Then the storm came, teams returned to the locker room and fans to the concourse. Then I waited. What team would I witness when the delay ended? A team that still believed it could reach its goal of winning a conference championship? A team that still wanted to go to a fourth consecutive bowl game? Or a team that was ready to pack their bags and start preparing for Army? I do not know if lightning struck our locker room or what redshirt junior linebacker Alex Lyons supposedly said, but there was a new energy when the team returned to the sideline. The team stopped the two-point conversion to remain down by only 12, but a lot of work was still left to be done in a short amount of time. Our offense drove down the field, but was unable to convert on fourth down to give the ball back to FAU. The offense was animated on the sideline. Senior quarterback Driphus Jackson was pacing up and down, wanting at least two more chances to lead his team to victory. And luckily, his defense helped get him the ball back after forcing a three-and-out. Rice took over at their own nine-yard line with just eight minutes left still trailing by two scores. After a 60 yard completion to senior tight end Connor Cella put Rice at the FAU 21 yard line, I saw a play I had not seen yet in this game. Rice spread out the wide receivers and ran a designed quarterback draw. With great blocking downfield from the offensive line, and a few swift moves from Jackson, Rice was within one score. The defense then came up with another huge stop. The big play came on third down when sophomore safety Destri White had a huge open field tackle to force a punt. Rice got the ball at our own 17 needing to score a touchdown in under five minutes to take the lead. The defense was standing on the sideline cheering on the offense. Everyone in South Florida wearing blue and gray had hope that we were going to march down the field and score the game-winning touchdown. The final drive was a work of art. It started with an incredible 25-yard completion to senior running back Darik Dillard along the sideline coming out of the backfield on a wheel route. Rice then rushed six straight plays for 54 yards down to the FAU four-yard line. After a holding call, Rice dug deep into its bag of tricks by trying a jet sweep pass with backup quarterback Nate German, but it was unsuccessful. On the next play, Jackson found Dillard out of the backfield who walked into the end zone to give the Owls the one point lead. The game was not over, as two minutes still remained on the clock. FAU got into Rice territory after a 29-yard pass on their first play of the drive, but our confidence in the stands and confidence on the field never wavered. Rice forced a fourth and five and Lyons, the man who gave the speech in the locker room during the storm, ended the game with sack to give Rice a much needed conference victory. There are moments in a year that define or change a season. I strongly believe our season changed with one normal Florida thunderstorm. We went from a team trying to find an identity to a team that now has confidence and momentum leading into the second half of the season with all of its goals still in reach. And importantly, a team that has a new theme song: ACDC’s “Thunderstruck.”Jeremy Reiskind is a Duncan College junior.



Owls in the NFL

(09/09/15 3:30pm)

September 5 marks the deadline for all National Football League teams to complete their 53-man rosters. Nine Owls were drafted, two of which, Bryce Callahan and Christian Covington, made an NFL roster for the first time.The Chicago Bears signed Callahan as an undrafted free agent. During the preseason, Callahan saw time at cornerback and on special teams. He recorded six tackles during the preseason, with his best game coming in the final preseason game against the Cleveland Browns in which he got the start, had three tackles and a recorded a pass defended. The Bears will use him mostly on special teams with a few occasional snaps on defense.The Houston Texans drafted Christian Covington as a sixth-round draft pick. Throughout the preseason, Covington has received tremendous praise from coaches and players about his attitude and skill. In four preseason games, Covington recorded 10 tackles, and has now secured one of five defensive line spots for the Texans.According to Texans Head Coach Bill O’Brien, Covington is a versatile player who can make an impact on the Texans’ defense.“I see him in different roles,” O’Brien said. “He’s very active. He gets off blocks and makes plays.” James Casey, the longest tenured Rice Owl in the NFL, is entering his seventh season in the league. Casey is listed as the starting fullback for the Denver Broncos and finished the preseason with three catches for 30 yards. For his career, Casey has 72 receptions for 842 yards and six touchdowns.Besides Callahan, the Owls have two other defensive backs are on NFL rosters: Phillip Gaines of the Kansas City Chiefs and Andrew Sendejo of the Minnesota Vikings. Entering his second year, Gaines earned a starting spot this season after a strong second half of his rookie year. Last season, Gaines recorded 20 tackles and defended four passes while starting five games. In a strong preseason, Sendejo recorded 15 tackles with one pass defended. Sendejo is currently listed as a backup to start the season.Rice’s last defensive player on a NFL roster is Rice career sack leader Scott Solomon. Solomon, an outside linebacker for the Cleveland Browns, is looking to earn a starting spot this season. During the preseason, Scott started three games and recorded five tackles.Rounding out the Owls in the NFL are tight ends Vance McDonald and Luke Willson, both are entering their third seasons. McDonald, a member of the San Francisco 49ers, has been overshadowed by all-pro tight end Vernon Davis throughout his first two years in the league. With Davis entering the final year of his current contract, McDonald is now looking to make a statement to become the starting tight end next season. Willson, a member of the Seattle Seahawks, also has an all-pro tight end ahead of him on the depth chart with the offseason acquisition of Jimmy Graham. In his career, Willson has caught 42 passes for 634 and four touchdowns.Three Owls who played in preseason games did not make NFL rosters. Wide receiver Jordan Taylor was placed on the Broncos practice squad, while wide receiver Mario Hull was cut from the 49ers and kicker Chris Boswell was cut from the New York Giants. 


Letter to the Editor: Conflict was not my intent

(02/24/15 6:00pm)

The Feb. 18 edition of the Thresher ran a front-page article describing a walkout of an event I organized. I do not believe the article fully explained the original intent of the event, which is crucial for its context. The event was focused on Jewish students who would enjoy the opportunity to hear personal stories from reserve soldiers in the Israeli Defense Force. The event was advertised as such until I became aware, the day before, that the audience would include more than just Jewish students. With this new knowledge, I tried to change the event into more of a question-and-answer where the soldiers would speak for only a few minutes and the remaining time would be allotted for members of the audience to ask questions. I never believed, which may be a little naive, that the original intent of this event would ever spark a conflict among the Rice community. My favorite thing about this university is that all students are allowed to have different views, and that we can appreciate one another’s views and engage in civil conversation. Peace takes conversation from differing views, and I strongly believe Rice is a campus where this can happen. Jeremy Reiskind, Duncan College, Class of 2017