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Challenging roads: Soccer evens record after lackluster start

Courtesy Rice Athletics Sophomore midfielder Kallie McKinney passes the ball in a preseason exhibition game against Texas Christian University. McKinney and the Owls have turned their season around with two straight wins last weekend.

By Diego Palos Rodriguez     8/30/23 12:34am

The Owls won both of their games this past week to bounce back after two straight defeats to open their season. After a 6-0 loss against No. 9 Texas in Austin, the Owls returned to Houston to play at Texas Southern University on Friday, Aug. 25 hoping to turn their luck around for their first win of the season. 

This was the Owls’ first game that coincided with classes, a change that freshman Mia Brumlow explained was tough to deal with when coupled with the transition into Division 1 soccer.  

“I knew coming in [Division 1] soccer was going to be more physical and a faster pace than club soccer,” Brumlow said. “However, up until last week, I only had to think about practice and game schedules. Now with the start of classes, the real challenge begins.”

This challenge, however, did not stop Brumlow from scoring early in the first half against TSU for her first collegiate goal and the Owls’ first goal of the season. Sophomore midfielder Kallie McKinney added to the tally with a close shot from a corner kick delivered by graduate transfer Ellen Halseth with 26 minutes left in the first half. Less than ten minutes later, Halseth added her name to the score sheet after dribbling through the defense and slotting the ball in the bottom left corner, increasing the Rice lead to 3-0.

The Owls conceded two quick goals to the Tigers early in the second half, but both McKinney and Brumlow scored again later in the half to reach their brace and seal a 5-2 win for the Owls. 

According to McKinney, her experience and familiarity with the team up to this point in her collegiate career has benefitted her and the team immensely, especially with the high number of road games scheduled for the Owls. 

“I think it is a huge advantage being familiar with the team,” McKinney said. “That familiarity comes along with a comfort and confidence to play, elevating the quality.” 

Rice’s next challenge was a fourth straight away game against Northwestern State University on Sunday, Aug. 27. The first half saw both teams share possession with solid performances from Rice’s defense and goalkeeper. The Owls got a breakthrough early in the half after junior forward Natalie Gorji, playing as a right wingback, dribbled her way past the Demons’ midfield and placed a through ball behind their defense and onto Halseth, who fired past the keeper and put the Owls up 1-0. According to Lee, the Owls were able to settle into their game after the first goal. 

“I thought we started really slow and [were] very fortunate to get a goal early, which I think settled us down,” Lee said. “I thought the middle of the game we generally had control of it and [we were] playing the way we want to play.”

Halseth continued her goal and assist streak three minutes into the second half, dropping a pass off to graduate transfer Sarah Piper who slotted the ball in from close. The Demons were able to scratch back at the Owls’ lead, finally netting one past junior goalkeeper Ann Stephanie Fortin with 15 minutes left in the second half and then nearly tying the game with just a few minutes remaining, but Rice held on to the lead for their second victory of the season. Given the team’s overall inexperience, McKinney explained that as the season goes on, she expects the team to find their footing.

“With so many newcomers this year, I think the more we play, the better we get, so I’m really looking forward to us finding our stride and really start competing to hopefully win these next few games,” McKinney said. 

The Owls debut in Holloway Field this season on Thursday, Aug. 31 at 7 p.m. in a highly anticipated “Bayou Cup” bout against the University of Houston. They return to the road in a matchup against Loyola University Maryland on Sunday, Sept. 3 at 11 a.m., to be streamed on ESPN+.  

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