Soccer avoids loss in deadlock against New Mexico
The stars were aligned, the signs pointed to "yes" and the wind was blowing in the right direction last weekend because, for the first time this season, the women's soccer team played to its full potential. Unfortunately, their best still could not earn the Owls (2-4-2) a win.
Facing the regionally-ranked University of New Mexico at home last Friday, the Owls played their way to a 1-1 draw. The Lobos (8- 0-2) entered the contest as one of only 20 undefeated teams in the nation and had recently broken their school record for consecutive games played without a loss, which they extended against Rice.
But to have tied the Lobos was an accomplishment in itself, especially considering how obviously Rice lagged in the first half. Even though the score was tied 0-0 at halftime, the Owls had been on the defensive most of the time. The Lobos doubled the Owls total shots and were winning the corner kick battle 4-0.
Only once halftime rolled around did the team dig deep, according to senior midfielder Ashley Lucas.
"We started off slow the first half," Lucas said. "It kind of took us awhile to get into the groove of things. We had a major halftime speech where we kind of got ripped. We weren't playing Rice soccer. We weren't playing the way we knew how to play. It was going to take us stepping it up and really get going in the second half. We had to put balls in the back of the net and do what we knew how to do in order to get the result we wanted."
When the team returned to the field, it had a new spring in its step, as it took the upper hand in the contest and began constantly on the attack. Then, in the 55th minute, a ball managed to snake through the Owls midfield and defense, and a Lobo shot rocketed off the crossbar. Midfielder Jael Fanning then found a rebound and deposited the ball into the back of the net for the Lobos.
Following the New Mexico goal, the dynamics of the game shifted as Rice scrambled to regain its momentum. According to Lucas, this scramble indicated another mental lapse for the soccer team.
"One of the things we're trying to work on, and that we've noticed this season, is that we have to play the whole 90 minutes," Lucas said. "We can't have any four- or five-minute mental breaks. That is something we're really trying to focus on going into conference, because it's those little five-minute mental lapses that end up costing us."
Rice quickly regained its sharp play and once again created opportunities for the team to score. Once a ball ricocheted off the crossbar, forcing Lobo goalkeeper Kelli Cornell to dive multiple times as the Owls attempted to even the score.
As the game drew to a close, Rice had not yet managed to score an equalizing mark, but the women were still fighting valiantly. Lightning finally struck in the 88th minute for the Owls on a corner kick delivered by sophomore forward Hope Ward to the feet of senior defender Alexi Corrali, who blasted the ball into the back corner of the net to tie the game at one.
"We were going nuts," Lucas said. "To score a goal is pure heart and determination. To score a goal in the 88th minute is more so. We all were going crazy and we just had a huge momentum shift. We thought, 'All right, score one more goal, get the win and take care of business.'"
The Owls were clearly leaving everything on the field as they dominated the ball in overtime, throwing everything they could at the Lobos. Rice had one final look at a goal late in the second 10-minute overtime period, when junior forward Korey Taylor streaked down the right side of the field with the ball. She ripped a shot that looked true, but the ball ended up going just wide and the whistle blew shortly after, ending the match.
Friday's contest was the Owls' final game before beginning conference play and an important step to finding confidence before critical matches. The team heads into conference competition optimistic after its solid play Friday night. They travel to face defending league regular season champion East Carolina University (5- 1-2) on Friday and then travel to Marshall University(7-1-0) on Sunday.
Lucas, who is fourth on the team with 10 shots, is optimistic about her team's chances in Conference USA.
"Starting off conference play, we all start on a whole new slate, and everyone starts with a record of 0-0-0," Lucas said. "Going into conference ... we have to finish our opportunities and go out and work our butts off and play Rice soccer.
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