Soccer fires blanks at goal in tie against UH
Despite having their respective seedings in the Conference USA tournament already set in stone, the Rice soccer team and the University of Houston fought as if the C-USA tournament had already started, chasing after every loose ball and getting physical when it was necessary. The two teams combined for a bruising 27 fouls, including one yellow card for each side, to a 0-0 tie. To followers of Rice athletics, the intensity was no surprise. Any game that pits these two Houston schools against each other has more meaning than simply a win or loss. More than a few of the Cougar football players attended the game in support of their fellow athletes.
The Owls ended their regular season Friday night by confirming what was already clear: They have a championship-caliber defense but struggle to put the ball in the back of the net. Though the Owls pitched their fifth shutout of the season, they could not manage to score, neither in 90 minutes of regulation nor in the two overtime periods that followed.
When the clock ran out and the game officially ended in a tie, it marked the eighth time that Rice failed to score, accounting for six of their eight losses and two of their three ties (to accompany eight wins).
Like in their previous shutouts, Rice did not fail because of a lack of shots. They had 20 sprinkled throughout the match, most of which were from a distance or at poor angles.
Of course, Houston only managed one total shot more than Rice, but it put more on goal than the Owls did, keeping senior goalkeeper Catherine Fitzsimmons on her toes throughout the night. To her credit, she responded by recording a career-high 10 saves in what was her final home game as an Owl.
Of the other players on the Owls' roster, a total of five additional seniors participated in their final home game: midfielder/forward Elizabeth Nesbit, defender/forward Korey Taylor, defender/midfielder Jordan Holloway, midfielder Kate Edwards and injured goalkeeper Meghan Erkel, who watched from the sideline.
These players, though finished playing at Holloway Track/Ley Field, had one more stretch of games to look forward to. The Owls began their push toward the C-USA Championship on Wednesday. They were seeded fifth and played fourth-seeded Southern Methodist University, whom they beat in a 2-1 overtime thriller earlier this year in Houston.
In the matchup on Wednesday night, the Owls' inability to complete scoring opportunities proved to be their bane once again, as SMU prevailed in penalty kicks 4-2. Rice had 19 shots while the Mustangs were held to 14. Rice could also not capitalize on the red card that was given to the Ponies in the 74th minute, leaving SMU to play a player down for the final 16 minutes of regulation as well as the two overtime sessions.
In the 10 years since the Rice soccer program was established, the Owls have qualified for the conference tournament eight times, reaching the second round seven of those times. They won their lone conference tournament in 2005, coming in as the third seed.
This was the first time that Rice went into the tournament without former Head Coach Chris Huston, who was fired before conference play began. Her role has been filled by Interim Coach Nicky Adams, who has helped lead the Owls back to the conference tournament after a year of absence.
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