Soccer grabs first C-USA win
Apparently, all it took for the soccer team to blow past weeks of frustrating 1-0 losses was the unfortunate promise of a lack of postseason. After being eliminated from contention two weeks ago, the Owls (4-10-2, 2-6-0 Conference USA) started to win the tightly contested contests that dogged them in the past. Over the last 14 days, the team went 2-2, scoring a total of six goals to match their total over the previous nine games. The stretch saw them play four straight home games, including a nationally televised game on Sunday, Oct. 11, against conference powerhouse University of Memphis (11-5-0, 6-2-0 C-USA), which Rice won in impressive fashion 2-1. Junior midfielder Kate Edwards scored a pair of goals, giving her three for the season, enough to claim victory over Conference USA's third-best team.
Both Head Coach Chris Huston and senior defender Alexa Coralli were quick to call it the team's defining victory of the year.
"[This win] was able to turn our season around," Coralli said.
The team followed the victory with another pair of home games with past weekend against the University of Central Florida, currently first in the conference, and the University of Southern Mississippi.
The Golden Knights (12-3, 7-1 C-USA) were clearly the team to beat in conference coming into play Friday night. They were atop the C-USA standings and are currently ranked 11th in the nation by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, and they harbor serious hopes of a deep playoff run this fall.
Rice saw full force why the Golden Knights have become a national powerhouse, dropping yet another one-goal contest, 2-1. The Golden Knights got off to a quick start, putting the ball into the back of Rice's net in the 18th minute. But the Owls did anything but roll over, controlling possession much of the time and leading the shot count 6-4 in the first half.
The Owls tied the game in the 54th minute with junior forward Korey Taylor's third goal of the season. Taylor fought through traffic and deposited a free kick from senior midfielder Ashley Lucas into the goal. With the score tied up, momentum was all but even as both teams tried anything they could to put away the final goal.
The Knights struck before Rice could, as Becca Thomas put her squad ahead in the 70th minute.
Sunday afternoon, the Owls went from the top of the competition all the way to the bottom, facing the last-place Golden Eagles (4-10, 0-8 C-USA). The difference was stark, as the Owls dominated Southern Miss from the opening kickoff.
Sophomore forward Nikki Storness capitalized on her first shot of the season, taking a pass from her roommate, sophomore forward Annie Kadota, and scoring the first goal of her career in the 42nd minute.
"Kadota got a ball out left and started dribbling down the left," Storness said. "It was just me and her and she crossed it, and all I could think about was getting in front of my man. I got around her and found the ball. I spun around and was able to put the ball in between the goalkeeper's legs."
The Owls opened the game up in the 53rd minute. Sophomore Hope Ward found open space and took the ball down the left side of the field, catching Taylor's eye for a one-touch into the back of the net. It was Taylor's second goal of the weekend and team-leading fourth on the year.
After the second goal, the Owls were in easy control of the game, and dug deep into their reserves.
Despite the number of substitutions - 21 Owls played in the game - Huston was impressed with the team's competitiveness.
"The level of the team's play stayed at an equally high level all the way through the roster," Huston said.
For her outstanding play in the games over the weekend, Coralli was named the C-USA Defender of the Week Monday morning. Coming into Sunday, Coralli was the only regular starter who played in the game against Southern Miss, as the rest of the backline was suffering from nagging injuries that prevented them from playing. They are all also questionable for this weekend and will most likely be a game-time decision.
Heading into the weekend, the women have two road games against a pair of opponents currently in position to qualify for the conference tournament later this year, traveling to Colorado College (10-5-1, 6-2 C-USA) Friday and then the University of Texas-El Paso (12-4, 6-2 C-USA) Sunday.
Rice will be the only one of the three not still in contention for the postseason, but Storness doesn't believe there will be any less drive from her squad.
"We just need to finish," she said. "It's going to show for sure that we're hungry.
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