Soccer gains speed as season winds to disappointing close
If the soccer team had played as well in the first part of the year as they did this weekend, they might be resting their starters in the season finale in preparation for a deep playoff run. Instead, the team's play over the last weekend has resulted in little more than consolation for a team that has struggled and stumbled through a season of coming up just short. On Friday, the Owls (6-10-3, 3-6-1 Conference USA) traveled to Colorado Springs, Colo., to take on Colorado College in the frigid, low-20's contest. Rice persevered through a pair of overtimes to take the Tigers (11-5-2, 7-2-1 C-USA) to a 0-0 draw. With this shutout, the Rice defense had gone 220 straight minutes without giving up a goal.
While the defense has been performing up to task, Associate Head Coach Nicky Adams noted the chances the Owls had to seal the game.
"We played well defensively and had lots of chances to put the game away," she said. "Senior forward Erin Scott had a scoring opportunity in the first two minutes and put the ball off the post, and we had a period of four-straight corner kicks that we were just unable to capitalize on."
The Owls were outshot in the game 20-15, but led on corner kicks by a margin of 8-4. Scott had four shots in the game and garnered her 200th career shot in the match, a feat accomplished by no other Owl in school history.
It wasn't a win, but it wasn't just another loss for an Owls squad that has seen their fair share of defeats already this year.
Two days later, the Owls enjoyed the heat in El Paso, taking down the University of Texas-El Paso 1-0 in perhaps their most impressive win of the season. UTEP (13-5-0, 7-3-0 C-USA) sits fourth in the conference and came off a streak of four wins in five games. The game's lone goal came in the 75th minute, when senior forward Jessica Ross took the ball past a glut of players inside the box and tapped it past the Miners' goalkeeper for her first goal of the season.
The Owls' defense continued their impressive run, finishing strong over the final 15 minutes to keep the Miners out of the net. This was another season-defining win, on the same par as the team's 2-1 win against second-place University of Memphis (14-5-0, 8-2-0 C-USA) earlier this month.
Senior defender Katelyn Ostendorf was named the C-USA Defender of the Week, the second Owl to receive player-of-the-week honors this year, after senior defender Alexa Coralli garnered the honor two weeks ago. Ostendorf played all 200 minutes this weekend and helped solidify the Owls' backline, which held their opponents scoreless. However, Ostendorf said the award was representative of the whole team.
"It was a total team effort," the senior said. "From the front attack to the backline, the entire team stepped up the defense this week."
While this team has improved greatly this season, their season ends on Friday night as the C-USA tournament, in a new format, elects to take only the top six teams in conference. However, the team should have plenty of potential to build off the success it experienced late this season to seriously compete next year for postseason play.
A win tonight against in-city rival University of Houston (4-11-2, 2-6-2 C-USA), who takes the field at 7 p.m. at the Rice Track/Soccer Stadium, would be a serious springboard into next season.
We're playing for nothing but pride right now," Ostendorf said. "A win against an in-city rival is always big.
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