Soccer to host defending champs Florida State on Sunday
Katherine Hui / Thresher
The Rice soccer team will face a tough test this Sunday when they host the reigning national champions, No. 8 Florida State University. After starting their season 1-0-2, with the pair of draws coming against top-20 opponents, the Seminoles have won each of their last two games by a score of 5-0.
Despite winning the national championship last year, this has been a season of transition for the Seminoles. Mark Krikorian, the coach who led them to the title, left to take the general manager post with the Washington Spirit of the National Women’s Soccer League. The team hired Brian Pensky, who led the University of Tennessee to the Southeastern Conference title last year, in his place. They also lost a pair of first-team All-Americans, but are led by defender Lauren Flynn, the No. 9 player in the country according to TopDrawerSoccer, and midfielder Clara Robbins who’s ranked No. 28. In attack, the team has taken a collective approach as four players are tied for the team lead in goals with two.
Rice head coach Brian Lee, just two years removed from taking Rice to their first ever Sweet Sixteen in the 2020-21 season, said that he is confident his team will put in a strong effort.
“I expect us to compete and see what happens,” Lee said. “We have got talented players, they have got talented players. 90 minutes, 11 a side and we will see how it shakes out.”
The Owls’ start to the season has not been as fortunate as prior years with only two wins in their first seven games. The team has already lost more games this season than they did in the 2020-21 season and has matched their loss total from last season.
They started the season off with three straight losses, one of them coming against No. 23 Southern Methodist University, but looked to have turned around their campaign when they had two straight victories: a 5-2 win against the University of Incarnate Word and a 1-0 win against Houston Baptist University. However, the team fell to the University of Houston this past Sunday 3-1 and lost to Texas State University 2-1 on Thursday after a late goal by the Bobcats.
Despite the slow start to the season, Lee believes that his team has done a lot of things well and just needs to fix certain critical mistakes.
“I think we are doing a lot of things well in terms of team organization and how we move as a group and how we are attacking as a group,” Lee said. “We have got to eliminate our fatal flaws like giving up 5 or 6 goals off corners. That has to get fixed and a few other mistakes here and there that we are being punished for.”
Lee also attributed the slow start to the season to a slew of injured players.
“We see the season as a starting point,” Lee said. “We feel like a new team as injured players come back and we try and figure out how to play together and where everybody fits best.”
Senior midfielder Delaney Schultz, who recently returned from an injury, has already made her impact felt on the offensive side with eight shots in just three games, five of them being on target. The 2021 Conference-USA Player of the Year said she is excited for the matchup against the Seminoles this weekend.
“We're excited for a tough weekend with … the previous national champion Florida State,” Schultz said. “That’ll be a super fun game so I think we're just excited looking at bouncing back.”
The game kicks off at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday at Holloway Field.
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