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Collins breaks assist record as soccer gets first win of the year

Photo courtesy Rice Athletics

By Diego Palos Rodriguez     8/30/22 11:17pm

It took just 29 minutes for Grace Collins to make Rice history on Sunday night. The graduate transfer who joined the Owls from Texas Christian University dished out a whopping four first-half assists, before adding one more in the second half to set a conference record as the Owls beat the University of the Incarnate Word 5-2 for their first win of the season.

 After starting the season 0-3, Collins said that her record-breaking performance was sparked by the three unfortunate games.

“I think our team played really well and we bounced back after three games of being unlucky,” Collins said. “It was really awesome for us to come back and get a good win like this.”

Another Rice standout wrote her name in the history books in the second half. After her second save of the game, senior goalkeeper Bella Killgore broke the record for most career saves in Owls’ history with 301.

Before Sunday’s historic game, however, the Owls struggled to capitalize at home against Loyola University Maryland. In the first ten minutes, both Killgore and sophomore midfielder Mikala Furuto threatened the Greyhounds with shots close to goal, but they were not able to break the score. Shortly after Furuto’s chance, Loyola had a free kick opportunity ten yards from the top of the eighteen-yard box. Loyola’s shot went just high of Killgore, deflecting off the crossbar, bouncing off the back of Killgore and rolling into the Owls’ net. 

The rest of the game was an offensive show from the Owls. The team had some late chances on goal, but the Greyhounds’ goalkeeper was able to parry them away and keep a clean sheet. After twenty-one shots for the Owls, three times that of the Greyhounds, the squad walked away with their third straight loss to start the season. 

Despite the slow start, head coach Brian Lee was confident going into Sunday’s bout against UIW.

“We just needed to have a response when the game started. Those first three games, we played well enough [to have] results and [they] just haven’t gone our way, so we asked for a response tonight,” Lee said. 

Sporting a 3 - 5 - 2 formation, the Owls got off to a fast start in the first ten minutes. In the sixth and seventh minute, Furuto, playing as an attacking midfielder behind Collins and senior Madison Kent, found the back of the net for her first two goals of the season. Both goals were hand-delivered by Collins after impressive runs threading through the Cardinal defense and setting up Furuto for both short goals down the middle.

UIW answered quickly with goals in the twelfth and twentieth minute, one from outside-the-box and another off a corner kick, but the Owls punched back just as fast. After a few missed chances from close, Collins set up for a free kick near the corner of the box. Looking wide, she crossed the ball towards the far-side post, finding fellow graduate transfer and midfielder Madi Allen for a header over the keeper and into the side netting. Only a few minutes later, Collins made her way through the Cardinal defense yet again and set Kent up for a shot to the top left corner. 

“Grace [was] putting a lot of balls in the box for us and I just [happened] to be in the right place at the right time,” Furuto said.

While the game slowed down after the six-goal first half, Rice continued to dominate offensively. Furuto almost bagged a hattrick after connecting with a cross from junior midfielder Shiloh Miller, but was denied by the post. Later into the second half, Collins capped her night with another run and cross, which eventually found sophomore midfielder Mariana Elizondo at the edge of the six-yard-box for a header, making it 5-2 for Rice and putting Collins in a tie for most assists in a game in C-USA history. 

In goal, Killgore wasn’t challenged much throughout the game; but halfway through the second half, she recorded a save and broke the Rice record for most career saves.

According to Lee, it seemed like everything clicked for the team in Sunday’s game, including a stellar pairing in both forward positions that he praised after the game.

“I thought Grace [Collins] obviously made a big impact and pairing Grace and Madi [Kent] up front changed the game,” Lee said.

Up next, the Owls have two local clashes. The first is against Houston Baptist University at Holloway Field Thursday, Sept. 1 at 6 p.m.. Following this, they play away at the University of Houston Sunday, Sept. 4 at 7 p.m.

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