Soccer a C-USA contender, 2-0 in conference
With the year well under way, the Rice Owls women's soccer team has already played 11 games.
Entering conference play, the Owls had a 3-4-2 record, including games against challenging opponents such as Oklahoma State University and Baylor University, who were ranked Nos 7 and 25 in the nation, respectively, at the time
Despite a seemingly below-average record, the team's members were optimistic, due to the fact that many of the games were close matches and hard-fought losses.
This tough early schedule, in addition to Rice's convincing victory two weeks ago against Sam Houston State University, had the Owls optimistic heading into the all-important stretch of conference games.
With only these crucial conference games remaining on the schedule, the outlook for the rest of the year is becoming clearer.
"We are all very excited for our prospects this season," team captain Julia Barrow, a senior, said. "We have a really talented and committed team, and we are confident that we will do very well."
It was this team attitude and depth that led the Owls to begin their journey toward conference glory against the University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane and the Southern Methodist University Mustangs with two impressive wins. Last Friday, behind freshman Holly Hargreaves' goal, the Owls defeated Tulsa 1-0.
Just two days later, it was the freshmen on the team again - Hargreaves and Lauren Hughes - who helped the Owls win a thriller over SMU 3-2. Hughes scored the first two goals of the game and finished her tremendous effort with a game-winning assist to Hargreaves in the 87th minute.
"It was a big game for the team," Hughes said. "I touched the ball once or twice and saw that Holly was open and had a way better opportunity than I did, and so I gave it to her, and she scored."
The Owls started off conference play last weekend with a 2-0-0 record and are currently tied for first place in Conference USA.
The weekend play also netted Hargreaves the honor of C-USA Co-Offensive Player of the Week. Hargraves, who is seventh in the nation with four game-winning goals, said
"It feels awesome," Hargreaves said. "It was a huge surprise, and it was super exciting."
However, while the team has started off well, there are still significant challenges remaning on the schedule.
The group will continue to be tested, starting today as the conference-undefeated Owls play against Southern Mississippi University, followed by a game against the currently nationally ranked University of Central Florida on Sunday. The next challenge for the Owls will come on Oct. 11 against the University of Memphis Tigers.
Both UCF and Memphis look prime to once again be the front-runners for the conference title. The Tigers have won the past five C-USA championships, and UCF has been a frequent participant in the NCAA tournament.
But the Owls are quickly showing that they are a force ready to compete. By winning games against these two opponents, the Owls could prime themselves for a regular season title and more.
The Owls will finish the season against rival University of Houston, another tough test, before the conference tournament. With eight games still remaining in conference play, there is much action ahead for the women's soccer team.
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