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Tuesday, September 27, 2022 — Houston, TX

Losing by inches, soccer ends weekend with two tough losses

By Teddy Grodek     10/1/09 7:00pm

In the sports world, inches define everything. A putt can miss the hole, a football can fall short of the goal line or a soccer ball can nail the crossbar and miss moving the game into overtime, all by inches. The soccer team played two of their best games this weekend, but the score told a different story, a story of inches and of the minuteness with which games can be lost. The Owls (2-6-2, 0-2 C-USA) fell first to East Carolina University Friday night by a score of 1-0. They then traveled to Marshall University and, in a nauseating sense of déj? vu, lost 1-0.

Against ECU (6-2-2, 1-1 C-USA), Rice kept the shots-on-goal count close and managed to win the corner kick battle but ended up with nothing to show for the effort. In the 23rd minute, junior midfielder Kate Edwards bounced a shot off the crossbar that, an inch lower, would have given the Owls an early lead.

Rice continued to come close on scoring attempts, only to narrowly and naggingly miss its opportunities.

All it took to turn the game was a Pirate shot off of a corner kick in the 81st minute. Freshman forward Chrissy Gratz headed the ball in, jolting ECU into the lead with her second goal of the season.

Unfortunately, it is becoming a trend for other teams to capitalize on a loss of focus by the Owls for only a few moments and to have that mistake cost Rice the game. Head Coach Chris Huston realizes this is something that needs to change.

"ECU is a good team, but we felt we were the better team on the field that night," said Huston. "We just couldn't capitalize on our many opportunities. They scored on one set piece, and were not as efficient as we need to be."

On Sunday, the team traveled to Huntington, W.V., to take on the rampaging Thundering Herd (9-1-0, 2-0 C-USA). Marshall, typically in the bottom half of the conference, has found early success this year and now has to be considered a front runner for the Conference USA Championship.

Despite past efforts suggesting otherwise, Huston said Marshall's winning ways are not a fluke.

"You have to give credit to those girls," Huston said. "Winning is a habit and losing is a habit, and they came in and have clearly made winning a habit."

The Owls fought vehemently and led virtually every statistical category, except for the key one: goals. The Herd struck early, with Erika Duncan stealing a pass from the Owls and depositing the ball into the back of the net in the 11th minute of the game. Rice was never able to score the equalizer despite its numerous scoring opportunities, the most notable of which was sophomore Hope Ward's end-of-the-game shot off the crossbar.

Despite the loss, senior defender Katelyn Ostendorf said that the loss had nothing to do with a lack of effort by the team.

"It was never the effort," Ostendorf said. "We just couldn't finish in the final third of the field. That's what this week's practice is all about, finishing our opportunities."

Senior midfielder Shelly Wong played an especially strong game with three shots on goal. Despite her efforts, Rice fell to 0-2 in conference play after the weekend, not quite the way the Owls had hoped to start their conference slate.

Even though the weekend did not go as hoped, the team showed some positive play. Huston noted that the team's defense has been consistently strong all season, with last week no exception.

"The girls are working hard in the defense and possessing the ball well," Huston said. "We've had nine games where there has been one or fewer goals given up. We just need to work on finishing up front to get the results that we want."

The Owls will get another chance to finish tonight as they face Southern Methodist University in Dallas and travel to the University of Tulsa Sunday afternoon. The Owls are completely healthy, with no major injuries that will alter the starting lineup.

Even though it is still early in conference play, C-USA has made changes to the conference tournament that heighten the importance of even these early games. The conference has decided to take only six teams to this year's conference tournament, instead of the full conference, so the women need wins this weekend to keep hope alive. Both of their opponents, like the Owls, are winless in the conference and have hopes of climbing up the standings to gain a tournament berth. The team is hoping last year set a precedent, as the Owls downed both SMU (3-6-0) and Tulsa (3-5-2).

"We can't play ourselves into the tournament this weekend," Ostendorf said. "But we can play ourselves out of the tournament with two losses. These are as big of games as any for us.

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