Soccer picks up pair of wins
Head soccer coach Brian Lee kickstarted his Rice tenure with two wins in two matches last week. The Owls defeated Oral Roberts University on the road at Case Soccer Complex on Thursday before beating the University of Houston at Holloway Field on Sunday.
Despite flying over 400 miles to Tulsa, Oklahoma for its first match of the season, Rice began its contest against Oral Roberts in a flurry. Only four minutes into the match, the Owls pressured the Golden Eagles into surrendering the ball at midfield. Sophomore midfielder Delaney Schultz and freshman midfielder Shiloh Miller played one-touch passing on the left flank, which allowed senior midfielder Lianne Mananquil to sprint between Oral Roberts’ center backs. Miller played a pass in front of Mananquil, who lifted the ball with her right foot above the outstretched arms of diving goalkeeper Allison Austin to secure the Owls’ first goal.
According to Lee, tactical use of the high press, which enabled Mananquil’s score, will continue to serve as an essential component of Rice’s game plan.
“We’re trying to press,” Lee said. “It’s a different system for the girls than they are probably used to, but they are getting acclimated really well.”
Rice shifted into a more defensive approach once it captured a 1-0 lead, which resulted in several long shot attempts by Oral Roberts, each of which were saved by sophomore goalkeeper Bella Killgore. At halftime, the score remained 1-0.
Although Killgore secured a clean sheet for 45 minutes, Lee opted to substitute senior Maya Hoyer in front of goal to begin the second half. Hoyer began her season with little work, however, as Rice reinstituted the high press and controlled possession.
In the 49th minute, Schultz recovered the ball at midfield and streaked toward the attacking half. With senior forward Louise Stephens on her left and senior forward Haley Kostyshyn on her right, Schultz opted to pass to Kostyshyn, who drilled the ball into the net from the edge of the penalty area to provide Rice with a 2-0 advantage. Kostyshyn said the score came off a quick decision.
“I took a touch forward and didn’t see anyone in front of me, so my instinct was to shoot it across the goal,” Kostyshyn said. “It happened to go in, which was a really good feeling.”
With three minutes left in the match, Mananquil, a preseason MAC Hermann Trophy watch list nominee, suffered an injury and required assistance from two trainers to walk off the field.
Ultimately, the Owls defeated Oral Roberts, 2-1, with one goal allowed by Rice due to a foul by junior defender Trinity King which resulted in a converted penalty kick.
Rice returned home for its second match of the weekend to face crosstown rival University of Houston, which had also claimed victory in its season opener. Holloway Field saw 543 Rice students file into the stands — a record attendance, according to Rice athletics — to form a lively and raucous crowd.
The opening 15 minutes of the match showcased strengths for both teams: Houston played one-touch passes on the flanks and drove their fullbacks up the pitch, while Rice looked comfortable defensively in its 4-4-2 formation. In an effort to spark creativity, Mananquil — who was declared healthy and named to the starting lineup — attempted a skill move to bypass two defenders. Not only was Mananquil unsuccessful in performing the move, but she also collapsed with an injury and needed to be carried off the pitch. According to Lee, Mananquil’s injuries were unrelated.
“Well [the first injury] was just really a cramp and she was fully recovered for this game,” Lee said. “[Today] was a totally different injury. This time she just got stepped on.”
Nonetheless, freshman Julia Kostecki stepped in to play as the right midfielder, and Rice remained steadfast in the high press. In the 22nd minute of the match, Kostecki guided a pass to Schultz, who performed a stepover move and drew a foul near the penalty area. Junior defender Mijke Roelfsema whipped in a left-footed inswinging ball toward the goal, and senior midfielder Erin Mikeska capitalized on close position by thumping a header into the net to secure the first goal of the contest. Mikeska said practice routines set the stage for her goal.
“I work on the timing of my runs and reading the ball out of the air,” Mikeska said. “That’s mostly what [heading the ball] comes down to.”
Rice coaxed its 1-0 lead into halftime by pressuring UH players within the Cougars’ own half.
An opportunity arose for the Owls to double their lead early in the second half when Kostyshyn received the ball from sophomore midfielder Madison Kent near the opposition’s penalty area. Surrounded by three Houston defenders, Kostyshyn slipped a pass to Stephens, who slotted a rolling shot across goalkeeper Samantha Cude into the bottom right corner of the net. Kostyshyn said passing vision inspired the goal.
“I opened up and I didn’t think I had the best opportunity for a shot,” Kostyshyn said. “It was chaotic and everyone was surrounding the top of the box. I just happened to slip the ball through to [Stephens] because I saw she was open.”
The Owls claimed victory in a 3-0 shutout following a successful penalty kick in the 88th minute by Mikeska and solid goalkeeping from Killgore and Hoyer, who split time in goal once again. According to Lee, both Killgore and Hoyer deserve to play.
“They’re two very good goalkeepers,” Lee said. “There are a lot of [Southeastern Conference] teams who would like to have either one of them. Right now, we are going to stick with the rotation.”
Rice next plays this Thursday, Aug. 29, against the University of Alabama at Holloway Field at 7 p.m.
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