2013 Conference USA Foes
According to Baseball America's Top 25 Preseason poll the Owls are only playing three ranked opponents this season, but their schedule is still daunting with key conference matchups and rivalry games.
The Owls are not slacking going into the season as they are hosting number nine Stanford University in the home opener at Reckling Park today, continuing a three game-set that ends Sunday. Last year, Rice went to Palo Alto, CA and dropped two of three to the Cardinal in a frustrating road trip. The Owls hope this can be a jumpstart to their season, especially since these games will be on their home turf.
The Astros Foundation Classic brings some major names to Minute Maid Park as Rice hosts number one University of North Carolina along with Texas rivals: Texas A&M University and Baylor University from March 1 -3. Out of the three, the Owls only played Texas A&M last year, in a 5-4 win at College Station. Playing UNC, Texas A&M, and Baylor back to back will push the Owls to the limit, but they hope the friendly confines of nearby Minute Maid Park will play to
In one of their most challenging road trips of the season, the Owls start off Conference USA play with a three-game set in Hattiesburg, Miss., against the University of Southern Mississippi from March 22-24. Besides Rice, the Golden Eagles are the only other ranked C-USA team (No. 23) and were picked second behind Rice in preseason conference ratings. Even though this is the first weekend of conference play, this can be a major decider in who takes the conference regular season crown.
Although not as strong as last season, the Owls host the University of Central Florida at home from April 12-14. UCF finished one game behind Rice in the final C-USA standings after the Owls took a crucial two out of three games in Orlando last season. The Golden Knights are picked to finish fourth this year in conference, but will nonetheless be a monumental challenge
for the Owls.
The other major series on the schedule is when the Owls head cross-town to face arch-rival University of Houston from April 19th to April 21. Last season, the Cougars finally stumped the Owls as they took the first of a three game set at Reckling Park, 11-6. Rice rallied to win the last two and avoided the embarrassment of losing a series to their conference foes. This year, the Owls hope they avoid a similar letdown as the Cougars are picked to finish seventh in the conference.
After the regular season is complete, Rice will host the C-USA Championships at Reckling Park from May 22-26. After winning the regular season title last year, the Owls could not keep up the momentum as they made a quick exit in the conference tournament. Rice is hoping they can complete the double: regular and postseason C-USA crown before they start off on their journey to the NCAA tournament.
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On Thursday, sophomore distance runner Grace Forbes proved to the rest of the country what her Conference USA opponents and Rice teammates have known for years – she’s one of the fastest runners in the country. Competing at the NCAA championships in Eugene, Ore. for the second consecutive year, Forbes, took second place in the 10,000-meter, the best finish by an Owl at the NCAAs in over a decade. According to Forbes, who missed the indoor season and the first month of the outdoor season due to extreme fatigue later diagnosed as an autoimmune disorder, the result was a testament to the work she’s put in to overcome an incredibly challenging year.
Five Owls will be heading to next week’s NCAA outdoor track and field championships, after qualifying at the NCAA West Preliminaries which ran May 25 through 28. Headlining the meet for Rice was sophomore distance-runner Grace Forbes, who took first place in the 10,000 meters for the second consecutive year. Forbes will be joined in Eugene, Ore., by sophomore thrower Tara Simpson-Sullivan, junior thrower Erna Gunnarsdottir, senior thrower James McNaney and sophomore vaulter Alex Slinkman. Jon Warren, head coach of the men’s track and field program, said that he was impressed not only by the five qualifiers, but by all 13 Owls who participated over the course of the week in Fayetteville, Ark.
The Conference USA outdoor track and field championships saw Rice’s men’s team place third with 121 points — their best conference championship performance since 2005 — and the women’s team place fifth with 88 points. According to men’s head coach Jon Warren, he was proud to see the work his team put in all season be on full display at the meet.