Soccer ends season on 'perfect' note
If only the ball had bounced a few more inches to the right. If only the ball had slowed down a split-second. If only that tight game has gone the other way. If only the women's soccer team hadn't played a season full of "if only" finishes, its season wouldn't already have ended. It was only toward the end of the year that the women started playing with the heart and determination necessary to forget these scenarios and finally obtain the wins they had just missed during the bulk of the season.
Friday night, the Owls (6-10-3, 4-6-1 Conference USA) played their final game of the year, taking on the University of Houston (4- 12-2, 2-7-2 C-USA) at the Rice Soccer/Track Stadium. It was an emotional night for those on the field and the sidelines, as it was the final game for the eight Owl seniors honored at the beginning of the match.
Neither of the teams had hopes of postseason play and were simply playing for end-of-the-season pride. The Owls had been particularly hot coming into the game, with a 3-1-1 record in an especially difficult portion of their conference schedule.
Rice got off to a fast start, tallying two goals in the first half for the first time this season. In the ninth minute, junior forward Korey Taylor found senior forward Erin Scott on a long pass down the sideline. Scott cut across the field and ripped a shot from just inside the box, screaming the ball past Houston's goalie. It was Scott's team-leading fourth goal of the season and the 22nd of her career, tying her with Sarah Yoder (Baker '04) for Rice's all-time record for goals in a season.
The second goal came in the 30th minute, as Scott found senior midfielder Shelley Wong inside the box. Wong's first goal of the season gave Rice the insurance it would later need.
The Cougars regained some momentum in the second half, placing 16 shots on goal but sneaking the ball past junior goalie Meghan Erkel just once. The goal marked the first time in 279 minutes the Owls had allowed an opponent to score. After this letdown, the Rice defense remained tight throughout the game, giving the Owls their third win over Houston in the past four seasons.
Head Coach Chris Huston said this win ended the season on a high note for Rice.
"[Playing] Houston is always a really big game for us," Huston said. "Last year we lost to them, so it was really good for us to get this win. This is probably the best circumstances under which we could finish our season."
Scott agreed with her coach, saying that the win was a bright spot in a disappointing season.
"It was the perfect way to end the season," Scott said. "Even though the season didn't go exactly as we wanted, I couldn't have written a better ending for it."
Scott's big week continued Monday when she, along with three other Owls, received news of postseason honors. Scott was named second team All-C-USA, while Wong and senior midfielder Katelyn Ostendorf were named to the third team. Freshman midfielder Julia Barrow was also named to the conference's all-freshman team.
Scott was surprised by the honor, which was chosen by the conference's 12 head coaches.
"I'm happy that all of [our] hard work paid off in the awards," she said. "I was worried with the disappointing season that our team wouldn't get the recognition it deserved."
The Owls managed to find success towards the end of the season, leaving the program in an upward swing for offseason workouts.
However, for a team with hopes of a deep November run at the year's beginning, having the season end so early remains a disappointment. Nevertheless, Huston is optimistic for next season.
"We're graduating a big class, but we also have a really big recruiting class coming in," Huston said. "The dynamics of the team are going to be completely different next year. It's going to be exciting to start building the new foundation.
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