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Kidd’s Korner: A case for the compassionate Rice baseball players

(02/02/16 9:06pm)

Last Tuesday, the Rice Owls baseball team and I took a trip to Shriners Hospital for Children located just down Main Street. If you read the first sentence again you will realize that I purposefully separated myself from the remainder of the team. It is “the Rice Owls baseball team” and then there is “I.” This mentality has been instilled in me and will probably never leave me; growing up with cerebral palsy, there was always just me. I had no team because I was different, I was the outcast who was picked last, the one who could never contribute worth a darn. That was until I came to Rice University.

Men’s basketball records first two wins of season

(12/01/15 2:42pm)

The Rice men’s basketball team played three games over the Thanksgiving recess and earned their first win of the season against Lamar University on Wednesday afternoon. The Owls were victorious once again against the University of California, Riverside on Friday night before dropping a contest to the University of Texas, Arlington on Sunday. The Owls currently sit at 2-5 on the season. Rice got off to a hot start against Lamar by jumping out to a 21-6 lead by the 13:17 mark of the first half. The Cardinals would respond over the next five minutes of play to make the score 27-23 with just over eight minutes left to play in the half. Despite shooting 60.7 percent from the field for the first half and knocking down 28 of 34 free throws for the game, the Owls continued to go back and forth with Lamar to the extent both teams were tied at 70 with eight minutes remaining. The Owls finished strong and held on for a 92-84 final score. Six different players scored in double-digits for Rice, led by 20 from freshman guard Marcus Evans. Other first-year players, guard Connor Cashaw and forward Egor Koulechov, scored 16 and 15 respectively while senior Max Guercy found most of his success from the free throw line going a perfect 10-10.In similar fashion to Wednesday night’s game, the Owls played Big West Conference foe, UC Riverside, in a back and forth high-intensity game. Towards the end of the first half, Rice managed to give themselves some breathing room, breaking off an 8-0 run to take the game into halftime leading 48-42. Late in the second period, the Owls broke off another run, this time of a 13-4 advantage to open up a 74-60 advantage. Another big offensive day allowed the Owls to outlast their opponent and win by a final score of 87-82. Four more players scored in double-figures for Rice including a career night from freshman forward Marquez Letcher-Ellis who contributed 17 points and 7 rebounds. The Owls had 16 assists on 33 field goals and won the rebounding battle for the first team this season 39-37. Riding a two-game winning streak, the Owls welcomed in the University of Texas, Arlington, a team who had recently beaten two of the most recognizable teams in college basketball, Ohio State University and the University of Memphis. The Owls could not contain the hot-shooting Mavericks who opened the game on 7-9 shooting from the field including four 3-pointers. Rice trailed 24-13 early but came back to cut the deficit to 29-26 at the 7:21 mark of the half. The Owls got as close as eight in the second half but could never trim the deficit that remained around the 12-14 point range most of the game. Rice had an opportunity to get close but the long-range shot was off for the Owls, who shot just 7-29 from three. Despite a memorable night for Koulechov, who was 10-15 from the floor with 28 points, the Owls lost 92-74. Just two days after a hard-earned and successful team win, Head Coach Mike Rhoades said he was disappointed by the lack of intensity his team had against the University of Texas, Arlington to close out the homestand.“I know we have young guys and we’re going to be inconsistent at times but we have to have a level of urgency to play, play the right way and play our way,” Rhoades said. “They’re a really good team, but if we would have had better urgency today it might have been a game we could have won.” According to Rhoades, there is a lesson to every victory as well as every loss that can be used as encouragement for the future of this program moving forward.“The moral of today’s story is you have to be ready to play basketball,” Rhoades said. “We learned the hard way today that we wasted an opportunity. I bet you all the guys including myself wish we had this one back but you don’t get them back. [That is] part of having a young team and working on changing the culture … but we’re going to fix it.”According to Rhoades, the team will have to move on and get stronger moving forward.“A lot of times it never goes as you want in life,” Rhoades said. “It’s not going how we want it right now so here’s your life lesson: What are you going to do? Pout, make excuses, point fingers, quit … or are you going to find a way to figure it out and fix it?”The Owls will make the short trip to Houston Baptist University on Wednesday, Dec. 2  night at 7:30 p.m. for a intra-city battle against the Huskies. Following this game, the Owls return home to Tudor Fieldhouse to face St. Edward’s University on Saturday, Dec. 5  at 7:00 p.m. The team will then enter a 10-day recess period for final exams and the ending of the 2015 academic semester. 

Men’s basketball drops opener to Golden Bears

(11/18/15 9:11am)

After coming off a thrilling 102-78 home exhibition victory over LeTourneau University, the Owls men’s basketball team traveled to Berkeley, California to take on the No. 14 University of California, Berkeley. With a 2015-16 roster made up of just three upperclassmen, many of the players experienced facing a top-15 college basketball program for the first time. The Owls were defeated by a final score of 97-65 on Friday night, but they gained valuable experience to draw from for the remainder of the season. Rice was greeted at Haas Pavilion by the roars of 10,530 fans. The raucous atmosphere didn’t faze the Owls at the start as the team came out and stuck right with their opponent. By the 14:19 mark of the first half, Rice led 14-11 with six quick points by true freshman guard Marcus Evans. However after that point, California caught fire running off a 23-4 run over the next eight minutes of play to take a commanding lead. However, the Owls put on a run of their own in response. Rice outscored Cal 14-4 over the next 4:16  to cut the lead to 10 with just 1:56 left in the half. Rice would take a 16-point deficit into halftime. Head Coach Mike Rhoades acknowledged the close lead in the first half but said the loss was due to a lack of momentum.“We cut it to 10 with the ball, but they scored the final six points of the half,” Rhoades said.  “The best way to have momentum is to take it into the half, and we didn’t do that. We didn’t shoot very well. We shot it a little better in the second half ... Now we have to do a better job.”As the course of the game progressed, the Owls could not keep up with the hot California offense that also kept Rice in check defensively. California shot 50.7 percent for the game while Rice shot just 36.7 percent. Sophomore transfer forward Egor Koulechov led Rice with 19 points and also registered eight rebounds in 31 minutes of play. Evans contributed 18 points on 50 percent shooting from the floor to give himself 42 combined points through just two games this season. The Owls were 15-22 from the free throw line and showed ball control by committing just nine turnovers for the game. California held the advantage in 3-pointers 10-6 and a clear rebounding advantage 48-30 which contributed to their 97-65 victory.Rhoades is now in his second year at the helm of the Owls, and said the young team needs more games to adjust to college play.“We didn’t play well today,” Rhoades said. “I thought we were selfish with the ball. We have a lot of young guys [and] it’s a lot harder to win in college basketball. They just figured that out. We’ve got to get a lot better.” Before the regular season began, Rice was already down two key players at the guard position to knee injuries, freshman Chad Lott and Preseason All-Conference USA guard Marcus Jackson. With their absence, the remainder of the team will need to work hard and play extra minutes even while running a fast-paced offense and a high-pressing defensive scheme. In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, Rhoades said the team will rely heavily on freshmen.“We’ve planned a schedule this year to throw our freshman in the fire,” Rhoades said. “We’re really throwing them in the fire now. We’re going to figure it out and keep moving forward [regarding the injuries] … There is no other way to do it.” Koulechov, a native of Volgograd, Russia and former member of the Israeli national team, is entering his first season with the Owls. He said he feels a deep connection with his teammates and enjoys the mutual respect granted by his coaching staff. “My favorite thing so far about [transferring to Rice] is just the connection we as players have with the coaching staff,” Koulechov said. “It never feels solely as basketball or business; it is something beyond that and it’s a great thing to have.” Koulechov said he shared Rhoades’ sentiments about the team’s selfishness.“We can’t play selfish, and [we] can’t do it by ourselves,” Koulechov said. “It takes a team effort and I think we didn’t play for each other on Friday. We will definitely fix that.” Following their trip to California, the Owls return home for their home opener against Oregon State University on Thursday, Nov. 19. The game will be televised on the American Sports Network. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. Thresher Sports Writer Aaron Shi contributed to this article.

Soccer bids farewell to senior class

(11/10/15 3:23pm)

Many, if not all of us, recognize the famous saying, “All good things must come to an end.” It appears that this also is true for the Rice Owls soccer team who bid farewell to a group of five talented seniors. With a loss in the opening round of the Conference USA tournament this past Wednesday in Miami, FL, the 2015 campaign concluded with a 10-7-2 record. The senior class brought home two C-USA championships during their time at Rice and depart holding numerous team records and individual school records.Entering as the No. 4 seed of the tournament, Rice played the No. 5 seed, Middle Tennessee State University, a team in which they battled to a 0-0 double overtime draw earlier in the season. The game shaped out be very similar to the first in that Rice held the clear advantage in shots with 21-10 but could not find the back of the net. In the 78th minute of the match, Middle Tennessee forward Grace Summers hit the top right corner of the goal from just outside the 18-yard box to give the Blue Riders 1-0 lead. The C-USA defensive player of the season and goalkeeper Kelsey Brouwer proved why she was selected when she registered nine saves on the day. The Owls continued to fight getting off five shots in the final 11 minutes but never found the equalizer. Middle Tennessee was eliminated in the semifinal round of the tournament by the No. 2 seed Marshall University two days later. Regular season champions, the University of North Texas went on to defeat Marshall in the championship game of the tournament on Sunday to take home the 2015 trophy. The season for the Owls was one of ups and downs for the preseason Conference USA favorites. The club was coming off a 14-win season in which Head Coach Nicky Adams was named C-USA Coach of the Year while senior forward Lauren Hughes was awarded Offensive Player of the Year honors. The club also welcomed six freshmen and one transfer who all made impacts in one way or another this season. The Owls soared to a hot start to the season, opening with a 4-1-1 record through their first six games. Over that span, Rice’s only loss came at the hands of No. 5 nationally ranked Texas A&M University. After one stretch in September saw the Owls lose three games out of four, Rice fell to a 5-4-1 record. The month of October was much better for Rice as they rattled off four wins in their next five games to improve the record to 9-5-1. However, Hughes was a consistent piece all season for the Owls, playing up to her preseason expectation earning 2015 Co-Offensive Player of the Year. Hughes led the team and the entire conference with ten assists on the season and also scored ten goals on the season, five of which were game winners. She is just the third player in Rice school history to be tabbed First-Team All-Conference three times in her career. She is ending her career holding school records in goals (39), assists (28) and points (106), among numerous other accolades.Senior forward Holly Hargreaves, a four-year starter for the Owls, set a magnificent record earlier in her career by starting every single game of her Rice career from freshman year through junior year, a streak of 60 matches. Hargreaves is finishing second in school history in goals with 32, trailing only behind Hughes in the record books. She has tallied 5,993 minutes as an Owl and also holds the school record for goals scored in one game, with four goals last season against Louisiana Tech University. Yet another star player for the Owls, senior midfielder Danielle Spriggs, has started 52 of her last 54 games for the Rice Owls from the outside midfielder position. Known for her hard style of play and lengthy runs, Spriggs was crucial throughout her Rice career in setting up Hughes and Hargreaves up top with good looks on goal. Spriggs registered three goals and four assists this season. The Owls squad earned a total of six conference awards for their efforts. Hughes was named First-Team All-Conference for a third straight season. Sophomore midfielder Samantha Chaiken and senior defender Jasmine Isokpunwu earned All-Conference Second Team honors. Hargreaves and junior defender Jenny Fichera both earned All-Conference Third Team honors. Freshman midfielder Dominique Mazero was named to the all-freshman squad. Head Coach Nicky Adams talked about the season in general as well as highlighted some of the greatest moments of the season. “Overall this has been a very positive season,” Adams said. “In 2014 we lost some key players in key positions and I am proud of how some our players stepped up in some new roles. This season started off with a bang being able to host the No. 3 team in the country at the time, Texas A&M. We [also] scored some unbelievable goals this year: a diving header vs. Arkansas by [Walker] and a tying goal vs. FAU with five seconds left on the clock by [Isokpunwu], just to name a few. Adams had many positive things to say about her senior class and will remember them for being such great ambassadors for Rice University. “This senior class will always be extremely special to me [because] this is the first class we recruited when I became the head coach,” Adams said. “All of these players have provided us with some of the most unbelievable moments on the field, but every single one of these young ladies have [also] been an amazing ambassador for Rice University. I am sure we will see a few of these players in the Rice Hall of Fame in the future.”Adams and her coaching staff are already focused towards next season and bringing home a conference title in 2016. “We do have quite a few younger players for 2016, but they all gained such valuable experience this fall,” Adams said. “The coaching staff is extremely excited to work this spring with this team [because] we have some amazing talent. We are looking forward to really pushing them and testing them this upcoming spring season to be the best they can be.” Team captain Danielle Spriggs believes strongly in the rise of the Rice Owls program moving forward long after her graduation.  “I am really excited for the future of this program,” Spriggs said. “I know the program has all the tools that they need to succeed, with great coaches, players and with the facilities coming along. I see conference championships becoming an annual thing for this program and [deep] NCAA runs [to match].”

Soccer freshmen shine on Senior Night

(11/04/15 4:24am)

The 2015 Conference USA tournament field is set and the Rice Owls are looking to bring home the championship. As the No. 4 seed in the tournament, Rice must win three consecutive games to earn the title and receive an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The Owls have momentum on their side after their Senior Night 4-0 shutout of the University of Texas, San Antonio. Despite the talented offensive group of seniors including Lauren Hughes, Holly Hargreaves and Danielle Spriggs, the underclassmen led the way against the Roadrunners. With the win, Rice closed out the regular season with a 10-6-2 record (6-3-1 C-USA).  Before Thursday’s final regular season game, the graduating seniors of the 2015 squad were highlighted for their commitment to Rice soccer and quest for excellence over the past four years. Once the game started, however it was the freshman who made a statement that the program is in good hands moving forward.In the fifth minute of the match, the scoring opened when freshman midfielder Dominique Mazero intercepted a pass in the midfield and fired off a shot on goal to give Rice the early 1-0 advantage. In the 35th minute of the match, the Owls scored again when sophomore forward Nia Stallings received a cross from junior transfer Madeleine Lundberg and deposited it by the far post for the 2-0 lead. Rice finished the half with a 15-3 advantage in shots and forced the UTSA goalkeeper to come up with six saves. Rice came out in the second half with complete control of the match both offensively and defensively. The Owls were able to make substitutions and provide rest for some of their regular starters. The bench did not disappoint, netting two goals as well and preserving the shutout.In the 75th minute, freshman defender Darcy Mickalow scored her first career goal for the Owls on a header after a sharp cross from senior midfielder Danielle Spriggs. Freshman midfielder Gabby Martinez found forward Marissa Topolski on the far right wing of the field. Topolski then played in a bending ball for freshman forward Annie Walker in the 81st for the fourth goal of the match. Senior goalkeeper Kara Dugall closed out the match and preserved the shutout as every healthy member of the Owls squad made an appearance in the game. Head Coach Nicky Adams said the seniors have been a model class for the university.“This senior class has been amazing for the program,” Adams said. “They have set the staple of expectations for this program and [are] leaving us with the most wins we’ve ever had, along with the most championships. They’re leaving a legacy and set the standard for the rest of the teams to follow as years go on.” Adams and the Owls have to win a total of four games in a row to get to the NCAA tournament level, but Adams said they are confident they have the capability to do so.“We’re definitely going to do our best [to win the tournament],” Adams said. “We’re actually in our fourth season now with preseason, regular season, conference and now postseason play and [we’ve] been playing all year for this. We need to sharpen up and be our absolute best against whoever we play in the conference tournament.” According to Dugall, the team wants to recreate its feeling from winning last season’s conference tournament.“I think our biggest thing is staying focused on the goal and not looking too far ahead but rather take it one game at a time,” Dugall said. “That feeling of winning conference and beating [the University of] North Texas was special for us last year and we want that feeling again.”The No. 4 seed Rice Owls will face the No. 5 seed Middle Tennessee State University on Wednesday, Nov. 4 at 1:30 p.m. The two teams battled to 0-0 double overtime tie back on Oct. 18 at Holloway Field. Rice held the clear advantage in that matchup, taking 26 shots compared to Middle Tennessee’s 13 but were held in check by the Blue Raiders’ goalkeeper, who registered 13 saves. The winner of that matchup then likely plays the No. 1 seed of the tournament, the University of North Texas. Rice defeated the Mean Green in the 2014 Conference USA championship game last season and may have the opportunity to bump them off once again. The Owls narrowly lost to North Texas by a 2-1 score when they met on Oct. 25.The Conference USA tournament begins on Wednesday, Nov. 4. The tournament is hosted by Florida International University in Miami, FL.

Soccer readies for postseason

(10/20/15 8:04pm)

With a 2-0 record last weekend, the Rice University soccer team positioned themselves for another late-season run towards the Conference USA championship. The Owls competed in two more games this weekend and came away with one win and one tie, stretching their unbeaten streak to four matches. On Friday night, Rice defeated the University of Alabama, Birmingham by a score of 2-0. The team followed this performance up with a Sunday matchup against Middle Tennessee State University that ended in a 0-0 double overtime tie. The Owls have accumulated 16 points so far in conference and are currently in second place in C-USA with a 9-5-2 (5-2-1) record. Rice matched up against a UAB team that had just two wins on the season as of Friday night. The Owls scored in the 26th minute when sophomore midfielder Samantha Chaiken elevated to head a corner kick into the back of the net.The second Owls goal came just six minutes later from senior forward Holly Hargreaves. The Owls had opportunities to tack on more goals as the game went on hitting the crossbar on multiple occasions but settled for the 2-0 victory over the Blazers. On Sunday afternoon, the Owls hosted the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders. In the second half, Rice owned possession time and outshot their opposition 13-2. Despite leading the shot margin 26-13, the match ended in a scoreless draw rewarding each team with one point. All four defenders for Rice along with junior goalkeeper Zoe Pochobradsky played 110 minutes in route to recording their third shutout in the last four games. Head Coach Nicky Adams said she was disappointed the Owls could not connect on offensive opportunities.“Overall, I thought we battled extremely hard … [I’m] just disappointed that one of the 26 opportunities that we had did not go in but you have to give so much credit to their goalkeeper,” Adams said. “13 saves on the day is huge and she had some legit saves so a lot of credit goes to that kid between the pipes.”Adams reiterated the importance of finishing opportunities. She said the team has great potential when they can put everything together, including the goals. “It’s great to see the defense hold up [and the] shots on goal but at the end of the day you need every unit together and finishing to get some W’s,” Adams said. “We’re brilliant out there when everybody is on the same page, but we have to do it a little more consistently.” Sophomore forward Nia Stallings said she is excited to now face the University of North Texas, currently ranked first in C-USA with a 6-0-1 Conference record. “They are always a tough opponent and they come out really hard and physical but we’ll be ready for that and give it right back to them,” Stallings said. “The plan is to go over there and come out with the win.”The highly anticipated matchup dates back to last season when the two teams played each other on two separate occasions, each in dramatic fashion. On Oct. 12, 2014, Rice and North Texas fought to a 1-1 double overtime draw at Holloway Field. The two squads then faced each other once more in the championship game of the Conference USA tournament where Rice defeated North Texas by a 2-0 final and secured an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Rice will take the field against North Texas on Sunday at 7 p.m.

Soccer splits weekend matches at home

(10/06/15 7:16pm)

The Rice University soccer team played two consecutive matches at home for the first time since Sept. 6. The Owls either tied or broke a school record in each game resulting in an exciting weekend of games. On Friday night’s 4-2 victory over Florida International University, senior forward Lauren Hughes registered three assists, tying a school record. In Sunday’s matchup against Florida Atlantic University, Rice was trailing 2-1 leading up to the final moments of the match. In a frenzied finish, Rice tied the game at the 89:58 mark of the match, just two seconds from the final whistle for what became the latest goal in Rice history. However, Rice eventually lost in double overtime 3-2. The Owls are currently 6-5-1 (2-2 in C-USA) on the season. At the 1:21 mark of the first half, Hughes drove in a ball to sophomore Nia Stallings who secured a touch and put it past the keeper into the back of the net to open up the scoring. After FIU tied the match up in the 19th minute of play, the Owls quickly responded with a goal in the 21st minute. Junior transfer midfielder Madeleine Lundberg fired in a shot from just inside the 18-yard box to reclaim the lead for Rice. Following halftime, Rice scored again to make it 3-1 on Hughes’s third consecutive assist. The scoring for the afternoon was complete in the 58th minute when Hughes scored a goal of her own to give her six on the season to put the game away for Rice. The four goals scored were not only by four different players but were more goals than Rice had scored in their previous four road games combined. The Owls held on for a 4-2 final. The Sunday matchup featured a battle of the two Owls squads in Conference USA. Rice delivered the first blow in the 30th minute of the match. Freshman forward Marissa Topolski navigated her way around a defender on the outside of the box and fired in a low cross to senior midfielder Danielle Spriggs who had the easy tap-in right in front of goal for her second goal on the weekend. FAU then responded by scoring two goals in the 34th and 39th minute of the match to take a 2-1 lead into halftime. Rice played the entire second half looking for the equalizing goal and outshot FAU 14-5 but continued to come up empty. As the stadium announcer counted down from 10 seconds to the final buzzer, Rice was busy trying to redirect a bouncing ball into the net. After multiple deflections from players on both teams and a shot by Hughes, senior defender Jasmine Isokpunwu fired it home with two seconds remaining in the game to stun FAU. In the 99th minute of the match, Rice looked like they had the game-winning goal on a put-back shot by Hughes, but an offside call negated the goal and sent the game into a second overtime where FAU would score and hand Rice the 3-2 loss.Head Coach Nicky Adams said she credits the execution of the game plan and the play of her forwards up top to the victory on Friday night. “I thought we had a great game plan going into it,” Adams said. “Lauren [Hughes], Nia [Stallings] and [senior forward Holly Hargreaves] up top were amazing for us. [Hughes] with three assists just shows what a dynamic player she is where she can score goals and can also put people in front of goals.”Adams said the last-second goal represents the essence of her team. “We outshot them 14-5 [in the second half] which is really tremendous,” Adams said. “We knew a goal was going to come but it was just a matter of time. It just shows the character of those girls … how amazing they are and their commitment to this team and to the game itself.” Lundberg, a transfer from the Air Force Academy, said all the goals scored originate from team effort. “For me, it’s all a clean state [being at Rice],” Lundberg said. “I’m out there with my teammates and we’re working together so well to the point it shows in our scoring. The goals were 100 percent team effort which is the way it should be.” Spriggs, a team captain for the 2015 season, has started in 45 of the last 47 games for the Owls. She said the perseverance shown by her team to fight down to the final second in Sunday’s match will benefit the team as they look ahead to two road games this upcoming week. “I think our resilience showed that our team is a team that’s not going to shy away when down a goal or when things get tough,” Spriggs said. “That’s something that is going to help us as we move forward in the season.” The Owls will head back on the road for the next two games to face Old Dominion University and the University of North Carolina, Charlotte in more C-USA competition. On Friday night, Rice will face an ODU team coming off a weekend of two rain-suspended matches. Rice will then face Charlotte, who were on the losing end of back-to-back 1-0 games this weekend. 

Soccer extends unbeaten streak to five games

(09/09/15 3:30pm)

After starting the 2015 season off with a loss in the home opener, the Rice soccer team has not experienced a loss since. On Thursday night, Rice battled against Southern Methodist University to end with a 1-1 tie in double overtime. The Owls played again Sunday night and were victorious over Southeastern Conference opponent University of Arkansas by a score of 2-1. With a 1-0-1 weekend, Rice now has an overall record of 4-1-1 in the season. With a cast of newcomers to the 2015 squad, the first-year Owls and the veteran players have seemingly had no problems linking up. In Thursday afternoon’s game against SMU, six new players contributed valuable minutes against the Mustangs for the entirely of the 110-minute match. In the 21st minute, SMU forward Lauren Guerra redirected a bouncing ball out of a crowded penalty area and into the back of the net for a 1-0 advantage. Rice remained scoreless for the first half, but after the intermission, came out vying for the tying goal in the 54th minute. Junior defender Jenny Fichera took a corner from the right side of the field and drove a bending ball into the box. Freshman midfielder Gabby Martinez rose up and connected with a shot on goal to tie the game at 1-1. That was the 10th assist of Fichera’s career and the first collegiate goal for Martinez. Despite outnumbering SMU in shots 25-11 and in corner kicks, 7-2, the game’s final score was a 1-1 draw. On Sunday night, the Owls hosted the Arkansas Razorbacks for the first time in the last 28 years. Arkansas, known for being a physical team, had some opportunities in the first half but the combination of the Owls’ defense and sophomore goalkeeper Zoe Pochobradsky squandered their attempts. With a long run starting just shy of midfield, senior forward Lauren Hughes managed to get enough space to fire a shot from outside the penalty area and connect with the bottom corner of the net to put Rice ahead 1-0. Following the first half, Arkansas continued to come out firing but Rice held strong. Riding the momentum of squandering the Razorback opportunities, Hughes and freshman forward Annie Walker completed a sequence that led to a second goal. After a lead pass out to a streaking Hughes by the near sideline, Walker continued her run into the box to anticipate a cross. Hughes drove a ball low into the box while Walker scored off a header. Hughes, with 36 career goals, was credited with the assist on Walker’s first career goal. With over 35 minutes to play remaining, Arkansas continued to fight and got one goal back in the 78th minute of the match following a corner set piece. As play got more physical in the final 12 minutes of the match resulting in yellow cards given to players from each side, Rice managed to hold on and secure the 2-1 victory. According to Head Coach Nicky Adams, the team needs to finish on their opportunities.“We are creating so many chances but we are not putting them away,” Adams said. “For us to get to the next level we’ve got to put them away.”Adams said the team succeeded against one of the more physical opponents they will face this season.“We knew with Arkansas coming in [that they are] one of the most physical, direct teams that we are going to face all year,” Adams said. “They never fail to prove how dangerous they are … so I’m really proud of this team for playing 90 minutes of just pure battling.” Walker said her first career goal was one of the best moments of her athletic career.“Basically I just sprinted as hard as I could to get into the box after I hit [Hughes] on the outside and when I looked up, it was there [so] I dove and it went in,” Walker said. “Under the lights, playing against a team like Arkansas [with an] awesome crowd here today … It was definitely one of the coolest goals of my life.”Martinez, who scored the only goal in Thursday’s matchup, said playing under veteran leadership has helped her early in her career.“Fichera served in an amazing ball and I was lucky enough to be able to get a head on it and it went in which felt amazing,” Martinez said. “Playing with [Hughes, Hargreaves and Fichera] helps me so much. They have so much experience … and I’m grateful and blessed to be able to play under them.”Rice will play their next four matches on the road. Beginning this weekend, the Owls face off against the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio on Sept. 11 followed by Miami of Ohio University on Sept. 13. 

Soccer wins three straight matches

(09/01/15 2:32pm)

With a mix of senior leadership and talented newcomers, the Rice Owls soccer club defeated two in-state foes this past weekend, winning a total of three consecutive matches. On Friday, Aug. 28, the team defeated Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi 2-0. Rice followed up this performance with a 2-0 victory over Sam Houston State University at the neutral site of BBVA Compass Stadium. After falling to the No. 5 nationally ranked Texas A&M University squad in the opening match of the 2015 season last week, the Owls have remained unbeaten and are currently 3-1 in the season. The senior duo of forward Lauren Hughes and midfielder Danielle Spriggs led the Owls to the 2-0 victory over Texas A&M, Corpus Christi. The scoring began in the 30th minute when Hughes launched a free kick from the left side of the 18-yard penalty area that connected with the top corner of the net to give Rice the 1-0 advantage. The Owls continued to push in the second half to attempt to increase their lead. The second goal finally came in the 76th minute of the match. Hughes found Spriggs on the outside of the goal, who then fired a strike past the keeper to give Rice an insurance goal and a 2-0 lead. On the same day opposing goalkeeper Megan Delaney registered 12 saves, the Owls defense limited the Islanders attack to just seven shots and three corner kicks en route to their first shutout of the season. Sunday afternoon, the Owls competed in the first-ever women’s collegiate soccer match held at BBVA Compass Stadium, the home of the Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash professional soccer clubs. The Owls were victorious in similar fashion to Friday’s matchup with a final score of 2-0 led by one goal and one assist by Hughes. With 17 first-half shots taken against Sam Houston State, the high-pressure and constant Owl attack paid off in the 41st minute when freshman forward Annie Walker sent a ball into the attacking middle and found Hughes, who tapped it into the near post for her third goal of the season and 35th goal of her Rice career. Riding the momentum from opening up the scoring, the Owls scored again just 62 seconds later when Hughes drove a ball to freshman forward Nia Stallings running alongside her for the tap-in that gave the Owls a 2-0 advantage. A significant play occurred 73 minutes into the match when Sam Houston was awarded a penalty kick following a Rice foul in the box. Junior goalkeeper Zoe Pochobradsky blocked the kick, halting Sam Houston State’s momentum.Head Coach Nicky Adams said she was pleased with the toughness her defense and midfield showed in recording back to back shutouts.“I thought this was a good weekend for us after coming off A&M and San Jose, where we had goals scored on us,” Adams said. “This was a weekend where we really wanted … to get tougher back there [and] overall I think our back line and our midfield did a much better job."Adams said certain key bench players stepped up and contributed to the overall performance of the team.“I thought we had some key players step up for us off the bench in a big way,” Adams said. “Madeleine Lundberg in the midfield, Nia Stallings [and] Annie Walker all gave us that spark and attacking presence.”Spriggs said she felt the team played their best game of the season on Friday by coming out the gate ready to go.“I think Friday was our best overall [and complete] game so far that we have played,” Spriggs said. “Every single position was on point and … we didn’t take any time to get adjusted to the game; we just came out strong at every position.” Pochobradsky said her penalty kick save combined skill and a bit of luck.“I never guess on a penalty kick, [but] my coach always says to trust your instincts,” Pochobradsky said. “You get up to the line and you kind of hope for the best and I guess I got lucky today.”Pochobradsky said the team must remain focused in the face of a tough out-of-conference schedule ahead.“We’ve got to start recovering from this weekend and stay mentally checked in,” Pochobradsky said. “We’re going to work on organization and keeping the ball, because when we keep the ball we are absolutely unstoppable.”The Owls return home to Holloway Field this upcoming Thursday, Sept. 3 at 6 p.m. to face Southern Methodist University. The Owls will then play on Sunday, Sept. 6 against the University of Arkansas, a team the Owls played to a 1-1 draw last season. Kickoff for the match is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Soccer looks to repeat championship season

(08/27/15 12:37pm)

The 2015 Rice women’s soccer team is coming off what was perhaps their greatest season in school history. Last season, the Owls closed out the season with a 14-4-3 overall record. The 14 victories tied the school record for most wins in program history, while the four losses set the record for fewest losses in program history. Additionally, the Owls went undefeated at home, securing six victories and two ties. The program set another record by maintaining a nine-match unbeaten streak from Aug. 24 to Oct. 5, 2014. As the No. 2 overall seed in the 2014 Conference USA tournament, Rice won all three matches and earned an automatic bid to the 2014 NCAA tournament as conference champions for just the third time in school history. The historic run ended at the hands of the University of Texas, Austin in the opening round of the tournament. In 2015, Rice was selected by the Conference USA head coaches to finish first in C-USA for the first time since 2001. The accolades did not finish there as senior forward Lauren Hughes was named the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year and junior defender Jenny Fichera was named Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. Senior forward Holly Hargreaves rounded out the honors as a member of the C-USA All-Conference team. Despite losing four key players to graduation in goalkeeper Amy Czyz, midfielder Gabriela Iribarne, defender Ashton Geisendorff and midfielder Quinny Truong, a core group of remaining starters and a talented recruiting class have not dampened any expectations for the upcoming season. Six true freshmen from all over the country have already contributed to the team’s chemistry and success. The freshman trio of midfielder Dominique Mazero, defender Gabby Martinez and forward Annie Walker has already seen significant playing time early in the season. Additionally, junior transfer from the Air Force Academy Madeleine Lundberg promises to make an impact this season.Hughes is coming off a season in which she earned C-USA Offensive Player of the Year honors. She led not only her squad but the entire conference in goals and points with 14 and 35, respectively. The Ottawa, Ontario native has one more year as a Rice Owl, but has already set the Rice record for career goals with 33 and points with 88. During one stretch in the 2014 season, Hughes scored in seven consecutive matches, also setting a Rice record. On the defensive end of the pitch, Fichera was a staple of a 2014 defense that posted 11 complete game shutouts on the season. Fichera has been a starter for all 39 games of her Rice career and has recorded 90 or more minutes in 18 of 21 matches played last season. In addition to her defensive abilities, Fichera has the capability to attack from an advanced midfield position, scoring four goals last season and serving in five assists. The final preseason honor by a Rice Owl was awarded to Hargreaves, who was the complement to Hughes all season long. Hargreaves ranked among the top in C-USA and the NCAA last season with 10 goals to her name. She broke the Rice school record for goals in a single game with four against Louisiana Tech and is currently the school record holder with 12 game-winning goals and 209 career shots.Head Coach Nicky Adams, who was awarded C-USA Coach of the Year last season, spoke highly of Hughes and Fichera and said they are deserving of the recognition. “It’s very exciting that those two have been recognized,” Adams said. “They completely are 100 percent deserving of those accolades. Again, those are two players who have been nothing but steady for our program. Lauren Hughes is scoring goals and Jenny Fichera provides us a spark in the back so I think they got the voting right on that one.”According to Hughes, the accolades are representative of Rice’s increasing success and attention.“To have Jenny and I named to those spots just shows that the conference really respects our team and to be tagged as the team that’s going to go out there and is expected to win it, that’s a huge compliment,” Hughes said. “[Preseason awards] show the respect we’ve earned from our conference and I just hope that we are willing to do the work and live up to the expectations our conference has for us.” Adams said the team will respond to high expectations with confidence and hard work. “It’s definitely a target on our back off the gate and we can do one of two things: freak out from the pressure, or take it and have confidence and grow from it,” Adams said. “With the personnel we have on our team, I think it will be the latter to do that.” According to Fichera, the team needs to take control of games early on and not allow the media’s expectations to interfere with their play.“We need to keep coming out here every single day and realize what we have on our shoulders,” Fichera said. “Everyone’s going to be gunning for us and we need to be ready for it every single game. I think it’s important just for us to play our game. Let us dictate the pace and how fast we are going to play, how slow we are going to play, and not play down to the teams we play but play our best at every opportunity.” The team split two games against Texas A&M University and San Jose State University in the opening weekend of the season. The team will next play at Texas A&M, Corpus Christi Aug. 28, and will return to Houston Aug. 30 to play Sam Houston State University at BBVA Compass Stadium.