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Friday, March 24, 2023 — Houston, TX

Soccer blown out by NCAA champs FSU to close non-conferences

Lupita Frias / Thresher

By Diego Palos Rodriguez     9/13/22 11:36pm

The Rice soccer team ended non-conference play with a bang. That is, they were blown away by last season’s national champions, Florida State University, in a firm 5-0 loss in front of the home crowd. The game marked the end of the team’s non-conference matches, which saw them finish with a 2-6 record and a three game losing streak. Head coach Brian Lee, however, emphasized that their expectations have not changed from the beginning of the season.

“[Our expectations are] kind of what they were prior to the season,” Lee said. “It’s a strange year where we’re just getting our full team in order, so it really feels like it’s the first game of the season. It’s easier for us because we’re still kind of shaping the team.”

Coming out on Sunday against a Seminole lineup that includes Jamaican and Nigerian international team players, Lee introduced a formation not seen before this season. While keeping the three defenders in the back, he added two defensive midfielders and dropped a striker to create a line of four midfielders above them, leaving senior forward Madison Kent as the lone woman up top. Gaps in the formation, however, were quickly exploited by an aggressive FSU team.  The Seminole’s relentless attack rarely gave the ball over to the Owls, who played on their side of the field for the majority of the half. FSU’s first goal finally came in the twentieth minute after an attacking build-up play left a gap in the Owls defense. A quick pass to the Seminole forward led to a close shot that bounced off the right post and into the goal.

While attacking chances stalled for some of the first half, the Seminoles continued to pick apart the Owls’ midfield and edge closer to their second goal. After a short water break, the Owls were able to get two shots on goal. One coming from a far free-kick taken by goalkeeper Bella Killgore and another coming from graduate forward Grace Collins, who, after a mistake by the Seminole’s defense, was left alone in front of goal for a close shot, but her attempt was caught by the FSU keeper who started a quick counter attack. After getting the ball near the Owls corner and taking advantage of a defensive mistake, the Seminole winger passed it back to the middle of the box and their midfielder blasted the ball to the top right corner of goal, putting FSU up 2-0. According to junior defender Jaden Roberts, the Owls’ halftime deficit was more a result of mistakes than tactics.

“I thought the first half, tactically, we had it all set up,” Roberts said. “[We] just got unlucky with some silly mistakes in the back.”

However the first half was viewed, the second half proved even worse for the Owls. While the Seminoles couldn’t find the net for the first part of the half, they controlled possession and ran circles around a Rice team that struggled to retain the ball. After almost 20 minutes of skill moves and build-ups, FSU set the ball down for a free kick just outside of the Owls’ box. Two Seminoles set up behind the ball and after the first one faked a shot, the second fired it left of the diving Killgore, whose outstretched gloves grazed the ball but were not enough to keep it out of the net. Less than a minute later, FSU took a shot that was deflected off of Killgore and back into the middle of the box. A stunned Killgore couldn’t react quickly enough to stop a lone Seminole from tapping the ball into the net, giving them their fourth goal. Their final chance came in the seventieth minute after a quick turn by the FSU striker put her past the Owls backline, giving her the space to put FSU up by five.

After the game, Kent said she thought the offense had gotten good shots off throughout non-conference but hasn’t gotten the results.

“I think we’ve created some good chances, [but] I think we’ve been a little unlucky,” Kent said. “Unfortunately, we’ve hit the crossbar and post on multiple occasions, but we’ve created some really great chances so hopefully that luck turns around and we’re able to use that in conference and make some really good offensive plays.”

Heading into the first conference game of the season against the University of Texas at San Antonio, Kent said that they are using the disappointing preseason to improve on their game.

“We're just hoping to learn from what we've made mistakes on, continue to work hard, and I just play as a team,” Kent said. “I think we have a really talented group this year and we've used this preseason to learn how to work together and as long as we continue to do that, we're gonna do great in conference.”

The Owls start conference play against the University of Texas, San Antonio on Wednesday, Sept. 14 at 7 p.m.

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