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SPORTS 11/12/14 2:28pm

Volleyball splits weekend series, prepares for postseason

After a loss on Friday, Nov. 7, to the University of North Texas, the Rice University women’s volleyball team responded with a sweep of Louisiana Tech University. On Sunday, Nov. 9, the Owls took three sets (25-18, 25-14, 25-14) to improve to 21-7 overall and 11-3 in conference play.The team was led by sophomore Leah Mikesky, who posted a double-double with a game-high 16 kills and 11 digs.aSophomore Sara Blasier also provided a season-high 42 assists coming back from injury, beating her own previous record of 41. After the 2013-14 season that saw the team go 11-19, the Owls are now ranked third in the Conference USA. Head Coach Genny Volpe said she attributes the change to the players’ determination and the leadership that emerged from last season.“We do have a lot of returning starters from last year’s team, and I think the biggest thing that changed was our determination and our levels of confidence and focus,” Volpe said. “[Last season] was definitely disappointing, and we didn’t have the confidence and the level of focus and determination that we do this year. I think a lot of that is coming from some of the leaders on our team, like our seniors; they’ve just done a great job of leading this group.”Mikesky also said the entire team’s mentality changed after last season.“I feel like the whole atmosphere of the team has changed,” Mikesky said. “We are a lot more competent. We just know that we can win every game. If we play [well], we know we can play with anybody.”The team is in the final stretch of the season, with only two home games left before the C-USA Tournament begins. Volpe said the team is focused on the end of the season, even with the tough loss against UNT. “We’ve talked a lot as a team about [how] it’s been a really good season for us, but it’s really about how you finish,” Volpe said. “So, we’re really trying to stay focused on doing the little things right. We took a step back [on Friday] against North Texas, but I think it was a good wake up call for the team. We’re one of the best teams in the conference, so people come after us pretty hard.”The team’s next game is on Thursday, Nov. 13, against Marshall University. However, the last game of the season is the Owls’ Senior Day, on Saturday, Nov. 15 against the University of Texas, San Antonio. According to Mikesky, the game has significant implications for the conference standings.“We’re playing UTSA, who is the undefeated conference leader right now,” Mikesky said. “We almost beat them at their [arena] last time, and they had a big crowd. We’re trying to pack Tudor and get as many people as we can to show our seniors our love and support and try and get this fanbase behind us so we can beat the undefeated leader of the conference.”Volpe said she wants as many students as possible to come out and support the seniors and the team against UTSA. “The students should definitely come out and support this great group of seniors, who have been through a lot,” Volpe said. “They’ve had a lot of ups and downs, but this is probably the most exciting Rice volleyball team we’ve had in years and the seniors have been a big part of it ... We are competing against the number one team in the conference right now. It’s on senior day, so there’s gonna be high motivation factors on both sides of the net to play a fantastic volleyball match.”

SPORTS 11/12/14 2:27pm

Freshmen prepare for IM Flag Playoffs

As fall intramural sports come to a close, the College Freshman Flag Football season enters the playoff season. Six colleges are left  seeking the Freshman Flag Championship and President’s Cup points. Will Rice College and Hanszen College, historically top colleges at freshman flag, once again lead the pack this year — both completed perfect regular seasons and earned a bye in the first round of the six-team playoffs. This is the first year that freshman flag is using a six-team playoffs system, a change from the traditional four-team bracket used in the past.  Outscoring their opponents by over 100 points on their way to a 5-0 record, Will Rice has put up points behind the play of quarterback Ben Herndon-Miller. En route to their No. 1 playoff seed, the freshmen shut out three of their five opponents, including two mercy rule victories to open the season against Lovett College and Martel College.  Will Rice coach John Robertson said the winning culture at Will Rice is due to the team’s dedication and performance.  “We’ve got a really close-knit group of guys who all take a lot of enjoyment in playing with each other and representing Will Rice,” Robertson, a senior, said. “The level of enthusiasm we play with is simply not matched by any other team out there, especially in our relentless flag-pulling. Going into the playoffs, our level of confidence is very high, and we expect to finish off the season the way we want to. We know we have a target on us as Will Ricers, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.”  Wiess College finished off the season with a 3-2 record, with losses against Will Rice and Sid Richardson College. Wiess sports a strong offense, which is focused around speedy quarterback Abhijit Brahme. This year, the Wiessmen improved from their one-win season last year and will be the No. 5 seed in the playoffs.  Baker College, coming off a winless freshman flag season in 2013, managed to secure the fourth seed in the playoff with a 3-1 record. Characterized by an explosive offense that recorded the largest single game point total of any team with a 35-0 victory over Brown College, the Bakerites’ only loss came against Hanszen in the final week of the season. Team Captain Lucas Jayne said he is looking forward to the team’s upcoming games and is looking for the team to show improvement.  “We haven’t been playing to the best of our capabilities,” Jayne said. “But we’re starting to practice and gain chemistry as a team.” Hanszen has picked up right where they left off last year to clinch a No. 2 seed with their undefeated regular season record. Leading the league in defense by allowing only 12 points all year, Hanszen’s defense has been a force in their 4-0 regular season.  After losing their opener 34-0 last season and forfeiting their remaining games, Sid Rich has rebounded this season. Sid Rich began the season with a perfect 4-0 record that ended with a shutout loss to Will Rice. Regardless, the team earned the third seed in the playoffs.  Sid Rich Captain Sameer Allahabadi, a wide receiver and safety, said the team’s unity and chemistry was essential to their season.  “This season has been a blast,” Allahabadi said. “We came in as a whole bunch of students just looking to get some exercise but have become brothers on and off the field. We are excited about the playoffs. We are going to go far.” Jones College joins the playoff picture as the sixth and final seed and the only north college in a playoff bracket consisting of five south colleges. After an 0-2 start, Jones won their remaining two games and got the final spot in the playoffs.    Playoffs are set to begin Saturday, Nov. 14, at 12:30 p.m. when Baker will take on Wiess for a spot in the semifinal against Will Rice. At 1:30 p.m., Sid Rich and Jones will face off for a chance to match up against Hanszen in the other semifinal. Both semifinal games will then be played on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. For students wishing to support their colleges, all games will take place at IM Field 5, located behind the Rec Center.

SPORTS 11/12/14 2:26pm

Soccer wins Conference USA trophy

The Rice University soccer team entered the Conference USA tournament as the No. 2 overall seed while riding a four-game winning streak. With three consecutive wins in tournament play, the Owls stretched their winning streak to a season-best seven games and were crowned the 2014 C-USA champions.The Owls clinched the conference’s automatic bid for the NCAA tournament and will play in the opening round of games this upcoming Friday. This marks the second time in program history the Owls have won the C-USA tournament and the third time Rice has earned a trip to the NCAA tournament.Rice opened up the C-USA tournament on Wednesday afternoon against No. 7 seed Western Kentucky University. In the 16th minute of the match, junior forward and C-USA Offensive Player of the Year Lauren Hughes slipped the ball past the WKU goalkeeper to put Rice up 1-0. Hughes extended her Rice school record by scoring in her sixth consecutive game, proving to be the game winner as the defense earned their ninth shutout of the season and Rice advanced to the second round of the tournament.On Friday afternoon, the Owls played No. 6 seed Louisiana Tech University, who had upset the No. 3 seed University of Texas, El Paso two days before. Rice outshot LTU 12-2 in the first half and had many opportunities to push through for a goal, but the score remained 0-0 at halftime. Finally, in the 79th minute of the match, Hughes received the ball from sophomore Jenny Fichera and scored a goal off a deflection by the LTU goalkeeper for what proved to be the game-winning goal. The goal scored by Hughes marked her 14th of the season and the 32nd of her Rice career, a Rice record, and tied the all-time mark for goals in a season while breaking the record for points in a season with 37.Sunday’s championship game matchup featured Rice and the No. 1 seed and regular season C-USA champions the University of North Texas. The Owls got off to a quick start, taking the first seven shots of the match. The offensive pace paid off as senior midfielder Quinny Truong raced down the field and fired a pass to senior midfielder Gabriela Iribarne, who was open on the left side of the goal, striking the corner of the net to put Rice ahead 1-0. The senior duo of Iribarne and Truong again connected in the 64th minute of the match to double the margin and give Rice a 2-0 advantage. For the fourth consecutive game, senior goalkeeper Amy Czyz and the Rice defenders completed the shutout and did not allow a goal all tournament to bring home the title.Head Coach Nicky Adams took over the soccer program in 2010 and has led Rice to two C-USA championships in four years. Adams said she is proud of the team for accomplishing the feat, but she is not surprised they won the conference.“[The team] put in so much hard work in the preseason … and just stayed focused on our goal of winning the conference championship,” Adams said. “I’m not surprised in the least bit that we got this done because of the amazing all-around team we have and our determination to win.”Looking ahead to entering the NCAA tournament, Adams said she is confident in the team’s ability to compete with anyone they are matched up with.“Our very tough non-conference schedule we played this year has prepared us for this tournament,” Adams said. “We are going to give them all we have.”Czyz, a defensive captain and four-year starter at goalkeeper, said she commends her teammates for the way they played together as a team during the tournament.“In whole, it was a complete effort with [Iribarne] scoring twice in the final, [Hughes] scoring in the other games and our defense shutting them out,” Czyz said. “We had a team goal of staying the whole week [for the tournament] and not [coming] back to Rice without the trophy.”According to Czyz, the victory in the conference final is especially meaningful to the senior class.“For us in the senior class, I don’t think we could have written our last year any better,” Czyz said. “As for our program, it’s been awesome. This is the first time we’ve won the tournament in almost a decade, and I can’t wait to see where Rice soccer is headed in the next couple of years.”Iribarne, named the tournament’s Most Valuable Offensive Player, said the team’s success this year is due to the its work ethic and chemistry.“This year has been so special; it’s hard to describe,” Iribarne said. “We’ve all been getting so many accolades and awards that are truly a testament to all our hard work this year and our commitment to playing for each other.”The Owls will face the University of Texas, Austin in the opening round of the NCAA tournament in Austin. Rice will be looking to win their first ever NCAA tournament match on the road against in-state rival Texas Longhorns. The game is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 14, at 5 p.m. 

SPORTS 11/12/14 2:23pm

Football earns bowl eligibility following win

The Rice University football team (6-3, 4-1 C-USA) defeated the University of Texas, San Antonio 17-7 on Saturday in front of a homecoming crowd of 19,464, giving the Owls their sixth-straight victory and granting them bowl eligibility.Junior quarterback Driphus Jackson scored the first and only touchdown of the first quarter on the first offensive drive of the game, scoring on a nine-yard touchdown run — Jackson’s first rushing score of the season. The Owls added a field goal from senior James Farrimond early in the second half, giving Rice a 10-0 lead. With just seven seconds left in the first half, UTSA was on the two-yard line with one timeout remaining. The Rice defense stopped UTSA on the goal line as time expired, cementing Rice’s 10-0 lead entering halftime.The second half continued the low-scoring output of the first half until Jackson found redshirt senior wide receiver Mario Hull in the back of the endzone, bringing the score to 17-0 with a few minutes remaining in the third quarter. Although UTSA scored a touchdown with 9:36 left in the game, Rice held on for the 17-7 victory.Jackson led the team offensively, completing 18 of 28 passes for 213 yards, a touchdown and one interception. Jackson also recorded 48 yards rushing and one touchdown on the ground. Jackson has now completed 130 of 222 passes on the year, recording 1861 yards passing and 15 touchdowns with four interceptions.The win marks Rice’s sixth-straight victory this season and its 10th consecutive homecoming victory. With the win, Rice is now bowl eligible for the third consecutive season, a school record. The Owls have now also won the most games in a three-year span in school history, winning 23 since the start of the 2012 campaign. Despite becoming bowl eligible with the win, Rice is not necessarily guaranteed a spot in a postseason game just yet. According to Head Coach David Bailiff, it’s important for the team to remain focused on winning out the remainder of the schedule.“We’ve done a good job of keeping everything in perspective,” Bailiff said. “Just because you’re bowl eligible doesn’t guarantee you a bowl game. There’s only so many bowl tie-ins for bowl-eligible teams, so we need to continue winning to guarantee a bowl game.”Sophomore running back Jowan Davis rushed for over 100 yards for the third time this season, rushing for 121 yards on 25 carries. Davis now has 748 yards rushing on the season, good for sixth in Conference USA. Senior wide receiver Jordan Taylor caught nine passes for 92 yards in the game, and now has 530 yards receiving on the year despite missing the first four games due to injury.Rice found itself in penalty trouble during the game as the team racked up eight penalties, costing the Owls 89 yards. According to Bailiff, the team needs to clean up its penalties in order to defeat Marshall University next week.“We’ve got to keep playing better,” Bailiff said. “We had some uncharacteristic penalties that cost us. That’s one of things going into Marshall: We have to make sure we’re playing our best football as we move forward. It’s great to win six, it’s great to win homecoming, but this week is extremely challenging.”Junior running back Luke Turner said the offense needs to work on finishing drives.“Offensively, we left a lot of points out there on the field,” Turner said. “We should have scored a couple times when we made it to the red zone, but we were offset by penalties and had stupid mistakes on our own part that took us out of the red zone. [Farrimond] is a really good kicker, but we want to score touchdowns every time.”Rice will next face undefeated Marshall (9-0, 5-0 C-USA), who is currently the Associated Press No. 21 ranked team in the nation. Marshall owns sole possession of first place in the Conference USA East Division and will look to earn their 10th victory of the season against the Owls. Marshall’s offense, ranked second in the nation, is led by junior running back Devon Johnson, who has recorded 1,203 yards on 137 attempts, giving him the nation’s fourth-best 8.8 yards per carry average. Marshall’s offense is also headed by senior quarterback Rakeem Cato, who has 2,316 yards passing and 22 touchdowns on the year. Marshall has the seventh-ranked rushing offense in the country at 295 yards per game, the second-ranked scoring offense at 47.8 points per game and the sixth-ranked scoring defense, surrendering just 16.6 points per game to opponents.According to Bailiff, stopping Cato will be a challenge due to the quarterback’s athleticism.“There’s really no weakness in [Cato’s] game,” Bailiff said. “He’s great when you keep in the pocket. When he breaks contain, though; that’s when he’s at his absolute best. There’s times where it looks like he’s surrounded and still somehow comes out. He just has a command of what he’s doing with that offense.”Redshirt sophomore linebacker Alex Lyons said stopping Cato will be the focus of the defense due to his ability to extend plays.“As Coach Bailiff said, there really is no weakness in his game,” Lyons said. “We’re going to execute what the coaches give us and do what we do.”Despite defeating Marshall 41-24 in last year’s Conference USA title game, the team says it is focusing on the present. According to Bailiff, this season features two completely different teams.“We’re such a different team than we were a year ago,” Bailiff said. “This will be a different game for us. This is going to be a great Conference USA game.”Rice’s game against Marshall will kick off at 1:30 p.m. in Huntington, West Virginia and will be broadcasted nationally on Fox Sports Network.

SPORTS 11/4/14 9:43am

Cross country teams compete in championship

The Rice University men’s and women’s cross-country team competed in the Conference USA Cross Country Championship at the University of North Texas this weekend. The women’s team placed second overall in the meet with 62 points, trailing only Middle Tennessee State University with 55 points. The men’s team placed fourth in the meet, led by redshirt junior Will Firth, who finished sixth overall and had the best finish in the conference tournament in Rice history with a time of 24:29 in the 8K race.Sophomore Cali Roper led the women’s team with a first place individual finish with a time of 16:43, a full seven seconds faster than Middle Tennessee sophomore Hannah Maina’s second place finish. Roper’s time was the fourth-fastest mark in C-USA championship history for a 5K race. Roper was also the only Owl in Rice’s history to finish first at a C-USA title race and the second Owl to claim an individual cross-country title.Along with Roper, sophomore Katie Jensen and freshman Madi McLellan received First Team All-Conference Honors. Jensen finished fifth with a time of 16:59, and McLellan finished sixth with a time of 17:08.Along with Firth, who earned first team All-Conference Honors, sophomore Adam Davidson earned a spot on the second team All-Conference team by finishing in 11th place in 24:47. Freshmen Steve Booker and Brad Dohner earned third team All-Conference honors after finishing with times of 25:09 and 25:10, respectively.Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams will next compete in the NCAA South Central Regional in Fayetteville, Arkansas on Nov. 14. 

SPORTS 11/4/14 9:41am

Volleyball sweeps series in Florida

The Rice University volleyball team (20-6, 10-2 C-USA) earned two victories in Florida this weekend against conference opponents Florida International University (6-20, 3-10 C-USA) and Florida Atlantic University (17-9, 8-5 C-USA).  The first victory came on a Friday matchup in Miami, Florida against FIU. The Owls faced an FIU team riding a seven-game losing streak. The Owls broke a 16-16 tie in the first set and a 22-22 tie in the second to narrowly pull away with the first two sets, 25-18 and 25-22. Despite FIU taking the third set and avoiding the sweep, the Owls prevailed in a 3-1 victory and, with the win, clinched a spot in the Conference USA tournament.  On Sunday, the team traveled north to Boca Raton, Florida to take on the FAU Owls. With consistent and balanced play on offense and a defense that held FAU to a .200 hitting percentage, the Rice Owls completed their 13th 3-0 sweep of the season. The win also secured their place among the top Rice volleyball teams in recent history by becoming the 13th team to reach 20 wins in a season. Head Coach Genny Volpe said she was pleased with the resilience the team showed after a relatively poor start against FIU. Volpe also said she was happy with the way they overcame the difficult start to beat FIU on Friday and then defeated a tougher team in FAU on Sunday. “We started out a little bit rocky at Florida International but managed to pull out a win with pretty average play,” Volpe said. “Against Florida Atlantic, we knew we had to step up our game because they are a stronger team and we did.” Right side hitter Chelsey Harris recorded double-digit kills in both games with 16 against FIU and a team-high 13 against FAU. Volpe said Harris played a valuable role in the perfect weekend “Chelsey Harris did an awesome job for us over the weekend,” Volpe said. “She was extremely dependable checking for us on the right side.” In addition to Harris, Volpe said she was impressed with the job freshman Katie Steel has done as setter, stepping in for injured sophomore Sara Blasier.  “Katie has really come through being put in a very important position quarterbacking the team while Sara has been out with injury,” Volpe said. “I have been so impressed with her ability to focus and work through some tough match situations. Katie’s assist numbers have been stellar, and I think the team and she deserve a lot of credit for pulling together and gelling like they have these last two weeks.” The Owls now sit at third place in the Conference USA standings with a 10-2 conference record with the two losses coming from the current leaders in the conference — the University of Texas, San Antonio and Western Kentucky University. With four matches left in the season, the Owls are trying to climb in the Conference USA standings as they prepare for the conference tournament on Nov. 21. Volpe said the team is looking to finish the season strong and carry the winning streak into the C-USA tournament in order to receive a spot in the NCAA Tournament. “We want to obviously [win] out the rest of our matches in conference play and then continue that momentum into winning the conference tournament,” Volpe said. “We have that ability and we know what we need to do. The team is committed. We honestly have the best offense in the league and need to capitalize on that to keep winning out.” The Owls now have four conference home games in the next two weeks. This weekend features a 6 p.m. Friday matchup against the University of North Texas, followed by a 1 p.m. Sunday game against Louisiana Tech University.  Volpe said the importance of these final regular-season home games are critical for the team’s confidence and momentum going into postseason play. “We need the support of the Owl fans,” Volpe said. “We would absolutely love to see the members of the Rice community come out and support this awesome team. We hope that the student body comes out in full force and gives us the home-court advantage. We have been on the road a lot this season, and so I know the team is looking forward to playing in front of their fans.”

SPORTS 11/4/14 9:40am

Soccer finishes regular season with win

The Rice University soccer team closed out the 2014 regular season on the road this past Thursday with a 2-0 victory over the University of Alabama, Birmingham. Rice completed the season with an 11-3-3 record (7-2-1 C-USA) and earned 22 points in conference play.With Thursday’s victory, the Owls tied the University of North Texas for first place in C-USA. However, UNT had one more match to play. UNT won their game Friday night and managed to clinch the C-USA title, but the Owls’ record earned them second place in C-USA and the No. 2 seed in the Conference USA tournament held in Charlotte, North Carolina.On Thursday night, the Owls scored in the fourth minute of the match. Senior midfielder Gabriela Iribarne earned her third goal in the past two matches on a 15-yard strike. With Rice leading 1-0, junior forward Lauren Hughes fired a bending shot from outside the box that found its way into the top corner of the net. With the goal, Hughes set a Rice record by scoring in five consecutive matches. The defenders were tested during the game as Rice was outshot 14-12 and gave up 10 corner kicks. However, the Owls played their way to their eighth shutout on the season and the 2-0 victory.Head Coach Nicky Adams said she was pleased with the way the Owls jumped out to an early lead against a UAB team determined to clinch a C-USA tournament berth. “We came in knowing that UAB was going to give us their best game because their backs were against the wall to get in the conference tournament,” Adams said. “We came out and played well in the first half scoring two goals … That was a huge help.” The Owls now have their eyes on winning the Conference USA tournament and clinching an automatic NCAA Tournament berth. To clinch the berth, the Owls must win three consecutive games in an eight-team bracket, single-elimination system. The first game is scheduled between the No. 2 seed Owls and the No. 7 seed Western Kentucky University. Kick off is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 5. The winner between the Owls and the Hilltoppers will play the winner of No. 3 seed University of Texas, El Paso and the No. 6 seed Louisiana Tech University two days later on Nov. 7.Hughes, the leading scorer in C-USA with 12 goals, said the team is confident and ready to play in this tournament. “We’re going into this tournament confident in ourselves and ready to fight to win,” Hughes said. “This is the best team I’ve seen since coming here, and I know that we have all the elements to win this tournament and move on to NCAAs.” Hughes said the current four-game win streak has helped establish momentum heading into the tournament. “Going into the tournament on a four-game win streak is really exciting,” Hughes said. “There have been a low number of chances for the other teams … and offensively we’ve been combining really well [to make sure] the ball goes in the back of the net.” Senior midfielder Quinny Truong said she attributes the improvement of this year’s team to the enhanced chemistry and teamwork on the squad.“The team dynamic [and] the selflessness this team has portrayed over this past season … [have] been the biggest factor to our success,” Truong said. “All the dedication, hard work and trust we have in one another has been what makes this one team unique compared to other teams of the past.”

SPORTS 11/4/14 9:25am

Football continues winning streak

The Rice University football team defeated Florida International University 31-17 on Saturday, Nov. 1, extendeding their winning streak to five games and bringing the team to 5-3 overall and 3-1 in Conference USA.After the Owls defense recovered an early fumble from FIU, sophomore running back Jowan Davis ran 19 yards for a touchdown 33 seconds into the first quarter. Rice increased the lead to 17 after a career-long 40-yard field goal from junior James Farrimond and a 63-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Driphus Jackson to senior wide receiver Jordan Taylor.FIU then scored 14 unanswered points through the end of the first quarter and into the second quarter. Jackson retaliated with a 69-yard touchdown pass to true freshman James Mayden, and FIU answered with a field goal, closing out the half at 24-17. FIU was held scoreless in the second half, and junior Luke Turner scored the last touchdown of the game in the fourth quarter to bring the final score to 31-17.Jackson led the Rice offense in both passing and rushing, throwing for 230 yards and rushing for 66. Taylor led the team in receiving, catching six passes for 115 yards and a touchdown. Senior defensive end Zach Patt had a career day en route to earning his first conference defensive player of the week title after recording five sacks and forcing three fumbles. Patt said he was proud of the award and attributed it to the defense as a whole. “Being defensive player of the week is really a good thing for me because it’s the first time that I’ve done this,” Patt said. “That’s just really a testament to the [defensive line], our staff, the coaches and the unit as a core, rushing together, playing as a team and just having fun.”According to Bailiff, the seniors played well and led the team effectively. Bailiff also said it is important to acknowledge senior defensive back Bryce Callahan for his ability to lock down opposing receivers.“I thought our coaches at halftime really made some nice judgements, but also I more importantly thought our seniors just came out with more of a passion [and] played with a chip on their shoulders,” Bailiff said. “Bryce Callahan, our cornerback, [is] very talented. You’re not seeing his name a whole lot because he’s not getting a lot of activity ... He had a stellar game.”Junior defensive end Brian Nordstrom said he was happy with the team’s defensive performance but acknowledged the need for improvement. “I’m really happy with how the defense played in the second half of the game,” Nordstrom said. “But at the same time, we’re not satisfied. We still have the goals of winning conference and getting to a bowl game that we need to accomplish.”Jackson said he liked how the offense played to start the game but said they could have performed better in the second half. “As far as offense goes, I feel we played well in the first half,” Jackson said. “I feel like we have to play better in the second half ... I feel like we are making great strides. We are throwing the ball a lot better, even though the completion percentage is not where I would like it to be. We are actually putting points on the board in the air. That’s balancing out our ground attack. It’s going to get better going forward.”Jackson also said playing high-ranked schools at the beginning of the year helped prepare the team to face off against conference competition.“It takes a lot of pressure off, to be honest,” Jackson said. “Those big games [against Notre Dame and A&M] end up preparing you for the pressure of conference ... [We] want to be undefeated, but [our] goal is to be conference champions. Even though we dropped first conference game to Old Dominion, I felt like we played well in that game. We just came up short ... We can match up with the best and biggest.”Junior all-conference defensive tackle Christian Covington will be out for around two weeks with a lower leg injury from Saturday’s game. Coach Bailiff said the team will miss Covington’s presence but they have enough depth to recover quickly.“Dylan Klare is playing exceptionally,” Bailiff said. “Ross Winship has stepped up ... We’ve got good depth there in the middle of the defensive line. They’re making plays. Will we miss him? Absolutely, he’s a great player. Coach [Jim] Wacker, when I played for him, used to tell us ‘you don’t win a championship with a healthy club.’ People have to step up and I expect those guys behind him to.”Rice is looking to extend their win streak to six games as they host the University of Texas, San Antonio (2-6, 1-3 C-USA) on Saturday, Nov. 8. Bailiff said the return of their senior starting quarterback Tucker Carter will make the game more challenging. “They have their quarterback back; you know they’re going to come in here excited,” Bailiff said. “They still have a chance to go to a bowl game ... We’ll have a great week of practice [and we] look forward to his homecoming game.”The game against UTSA is Rice’s homecoming game and will kick off at 11 a.m. at Rice Stadium. 

SPORTS 10/28/14 11:13am

'Bob' makes a name for himself on field

Luke Turner is the reigning Conference USA Championship Most Valuable Player and is currently in his third year of eligibility for Rice University football. Despite being listed as a running back, Turner does not exclusively play one position.Although Turner played quarterback in high school, he has played numerous positions at Rice, filling in gaps on both sides of the ball. He has scored touchdowns as a quarterback, receiver and running back in his time on the team. Turner has also taken a few punts and returned kicks.According to Turner, it is difficult to perform in a number of different roles, but he welcomes the challenge with open arms.“[The coaches] asked me to do a lot, which doesn’t bother me at all,” Turner, a Will Rice College junior, said. “I do a lot of special teams, I’ve done kickoff returns. Now in my third year of college, they’ve asked me to play tight end, which I had never really played. I had never even played running back before I [got] to college. They asked me to do a lot of different stuff.”Turner also currently plays quarterback in the “Wild Owl” formation, an offensive formation in which a running back lines up in the quarterback slot. Turner first earned his opportunity to run the formation last season after senior running back Turner Petersen sustained a knee injury against Tulane University last November. Turner said being the featured quarterback in the Wild Owl is due to his high school football experience as quarterback.“I played quarterback in high school, and Turner [Petersen got] a little banged up at the beginning of fall,” Turner said. “[The coaches] said, ‘Hey this kid played quarterback, let’s see what he can do.’ They just kind of gave it to me after that and I’ve been doing it ever since.”Turner has been nicknamed ‘Bob’ by his teammates and coaches, which he attributes to the confusion that came from having two other players named Luke Wilson and Turner Peterson on the team. Turner said Wilson, who is currently a tight end for the Seattle Seahawks, was tired of the confusion and told everybody to start calling him Bob instead.“[We] had Luke [Wilson] and Turner [Petersen],” Turner said. “My name is Luke Turner, so [there was] a little confusion out at practice every day. It went until about three weeks into fall camp my freshman year … One day, Luke Wilson just stopped practice and said ‘Everybody, he’s Bob from now on.’ It was just supposed to be a joke, initially, but it stuck.”

SPORTS 10/28/14 11:11am

Powderpuff teams seek playoff bids in week seven

With the seventh week of preliminary powderpuff games still underway, Sid Richardson College currently sits at the top of its division and the overall conference with a 78-point differential and six wins and no losses. Last year, the team ended their season with a 62 point differential and six wins and one loss. According to Sid Richardson junior Christina Shields, the secret to the team’s success is an improvement on the offensive side of the ball.“Our defense has been really strong for the past few years, but this year we really diversified our offense as well,” Shields said. “Our defense is still rock solid, but now everyone on offense is scoring, and I think that’s the reason we’ve seen such a good point differential.”Martel College trails behind Sid Richardson and GSA as third overall, with a current record of four wins, one loss and a 18-point differential. Last year, Martel ended their season with three wins and four losses, finishing with an 11-point differential. This year, the Martel and GSA are tied for the best record in the North division, although GSA has the better point differential with 28.Head Coach and Martel senior Taylor Neal said he is enthusiastic about his team’s improvement.“Our team has improved on both sides of the ball, and it has been exciting to get a few wins to start the season,” Neal said. “We are not satisfied with a few early wins, and we’re still trying new things as we attempt to improve.”Martel junior Cassie Peretore said Martel’s newfound success can be explained by the team’s effort and chemistry.“Our coaches and players this year have really stepped it up with dedication and hard work,” Peretore said. “I’m really excited to see where our season ends up. Honestly, we’re just going out there, having fun and enjoying ourselves.”Will Rice College opened with a loss by one point to Martel. However, they were quick to stabilize their point differential with three consecutive victories against Brown College, Baker College and Hanszen College. The team recently lost to Sid Richardson by seven points.Coach Will Byers said he is proud of the determination and work ethic of the team, giving special credit to senior Ellen Wendte and junior Michelle Huang.“We’ve had two tough losses that really came down to the wire,” Byers said. “I’ve been extremely impressed with our girls’ resilience and focus. Captains Ellen Wendte and Michelle Huang have done a great job of getting people out to practice and motivating everyone to excel. I think future seasons are looking bright for Will Rice.”Coming off of its 2013 season, which finished with a loss in the championship game, the McMurtry College team has seen less success this season with two wins, three losses and a two-point differential. According to Head Coach Ross Michie-Derrick, a McMurtry senior, the team has had to rebuild itself after losing many key players to graduation.“Veterans like Jessica Kelly, Andrea ‘AK-47’ Kopczynski, Joanna Hall and Allison Yu have played well from the start,” Michie-Derrick said. “The freshmen have found their lane in the past few games, [and quarterback] Avery Landrum has amazing spatial awareness, which has facilitated her rapid rise.”Despite the initial setbacks, Michie-Derrick said the team will end up winning the championship. “We started the season in a rebuild, but we will finish it with the championship plaque,” Michie-Derrick said.

SPORTS 10/28/14 11:10am

Volleyball completes weekend sweep at home

The Rice University volleyball team completed an undefeated weekend by winning two matches against conference opponents. On Friday, the Owls faced Middle Tennessee State University, winning 3-1. The team ended the weekend with a 3-0 victory over the University of Alabama, Birmingham. The Owls have now won seven of their last eight matches. Freshman setter Katie Steel and junior outside hitter Andi Bawcum were named Conference USA Setter of the Week and Offensive Player of the Week, respectively. Steel, in her first career start, tallied 95 assists for the weekend in replacement of the injured Sara Blasier as the setter. Bawcum, who recorded a season-high total of 22 kills on Friday night, also earned her first career C-USA Player of the Week award. Senior defensive specialist Daniela Arenas also recorded 38 digs recorded over the two weekend games. According to Volpe, Arenas has been an important senior on the team who has led the younger players, despite not receiving much glory. “Arenas has been awesome not just this weekend, but all season,” Volpe said. “She has been a steady leader for us and has been a big reason for our success. The things she does [do not] always show up on a stat sheet, but she does so much for our team.” As the team comes close to wrapping up the season and preparing for the conference tournament, Volpe said she is still looking for improvement. “We always are looking [to] improve,” Volpe said. “We are definitely a strong passing and defensive team, which is helping our offense, but we need to continue to improve in certain areas defensively to help us win the C-USA tournament.”  According to Volpe, the team is focusing on improving its serving heading into postseason play. “I’d also like us to continue to serve more aggressively,” Volpe said. “That can be a very strong part of our team that I don’t think we have quite yet maximized.” The Owls will now finish their road schedule as they head to South Florida next weekend for a Friday matchup against Florida International University on Oct. 31 at 5 p.m. and a Sunday morning matchup against Florida Atlantic University on Nov. 2 at 11 a.m. 

SPORTS 10/28/14 11:09am

Soccer completes undefeated season at home

This past weekend, the Rice University soccer team won both home games, clinching an undefeated home record for the first time in program history.  Friday night’s Senior Day saw the team’s four seniors honored for their careers at Rice. Goalkeeper Amy Czyz, midfielders Gabriela Iribarne and Quinny Truong and defender Ashton Geisendorff led Rice to a 5-0 victory over Old Dominion University. On Sunday, the Owls defeated the University of North Carolina at Charlotte 4-1.On Friday night, junior Lauren Hughes got the Owls on the board first in the 17th minute of the game with a close range strike to beat the keeper. In the 32nd minute of the game, junior Holly Hargreaves scored on a chip shot that found the back of the net with the assist coming from Truong. Hughes went on to score two more goals later in the match in the 58th and 61st minute to give her a hat trick and her 10th goal of the season. The defense held strong, only allowing four shots all game.Czyz said Senior Day allowed her to reflect on her Rice career and the improvements she has seen in the soccer program. “For us, this is a very special day, and I’m so happy [the seniors] have made it this far and been so successful,” Czyz said. “Getting the big win and the shutout was the perfect way to cap [Senior Day] off, and we just hope we are leaving the program in better hands than when we got it here.” Head Coach Nicky Adams said the seniors have served as great examples for the rest of team and have helped lead the team to its success this season.“[Our seniors] bring so much leadership, and they truly love Rice,” Adams said. “Every day they come out and give us everything they have. It’s just contagious when you have great seniors who truly believe in what we’re doing … obviously the team is going to follow.” On Sunday afternoon, the Owls continued their two-game winning streak, scoring four more goals and winning 4-1. Hughes scored the opening goal of the game off of a deflection in the sixth minute to give the Owls an early lead. Iribarne followed that up with a 35th minute goal to take a 2-0 lead into halftime. Iribarne added another goal in the 71st minute off a cross from junior midfielder Danielle Spriggs. The Owls’ victory earned them a 6-0-2 home record to complement their 10-3-3 (6-2-1 C-USA) season thus far. The current squad has the top two goal-scorers in Rice history in Hargreaves and Hughes, and the all-time leader in shutouts in Czyz. Adams said she was satisfied with the way the team played this past weekend to stay in second place in C-USA.“I was pleased with the way our possession was all weekend and [our] ability to find the back of the net, scoring nine goals in one weekend,” Adams said. “I love how we played as one unit on both sides of the ball.” Looking forward, Adams said the Owls have hopes of entering the NCAA tournament by winning the C-USA tournament or receiving an at-large bid. “This team is so hungry and definitely want[s] to make [the NCAA tournament],” Adams said. “If we are peaking right now, this is the perfect time and we are excited for what is coming up.” Iribarne said she hopes she and the rest of the senior class have been role models for the younger players. “I think this season has been great,” Iribarne said. “[We] know our teammates look up to us [and] we look up to them, so it’s a full circle and we work hard out there for each other.” Rice will play their final game of the season on the road Thursday, Oct. 30 against the University of Alabama, Birmingham. Rice is currently tied for second place in C-USA and has clinched a berth in the upcoming C-USA tournament beginning Nov. 5, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

SPORTS 10/28/14 11:08am

Football earns fourth consecutive victory

The Rice University football team defeated the University of North Texas 41-21 Saturday, Oct. 25 and improved its record to 4-3 overall and 2-1 in Conference USA, giving the Owls their fourth-consecutive victory. Rice scored on the first offensive play of the game with an 88-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Driphus Jackson to senior wide receiver Jordan Taylor, tying the record for the longest-scoring play in school history. Rice and UNT exchanged scores for the remainder of the first quarter, ending the opening period tied at 14 points apiece. UNT scored the only touchdown of the second quarter and carried a 21-14 lead heading into halftime.The Owls came out of halftime and scored 27 unanswered points to secure the 41-21 victory. The Rice defense held UNT to only 45 yards of offense in the second half, helping Rice to its 10th home victory in its last 11 home games.Rice’s offense, led by Jackson, totaled 233 passing yards and 188 rushing yards in the game. Jackson completed 13 of 26 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown, while sophomore running backs Jowan Davis and Darik Dillard combined for 135 yards and three touchdowns. Taylor led the team in receiving, recording 137 yards on four catches and becoming the fourth player in school history to surpass 2,000 career receiving yards.Taylor said the team’s offensive success in the second half was due to the offensive line’s performance and the team’s ability to adjust to UNT’s defense.“All year long the [offensive line] has been the focal point of our offense, and this week North Texas made it really hard for us to go in there and run the ball, that’s just what they do,” Taylor said. “Our offensive line did a heck of a job. They kind of struggled in the first half, we all did as an offense, but we picked it up in the second half and made things happen when we needed to.”Rice’s defense held UNT to 216 yards in the second half, the best defensive performance of the season and 133 yards below UNT’s season average. Less than five minutes into the third quarter, junior cornerback Ryan Pollard intercepted a pass from UNT quarterback Andrew McNulty and returned it for a touchdown, giving the Owls their first defensive score of the season.Head Coach David Bailiff said the quick defensive start in the second half was attributed to the attitude and strategic changes that occurred during halftime.“Even in the locker room, you’re down 21 to 14, and the defense is talking about getting a takeaway, scoring a touchdown on defense,” Bailiff said. “And it was almost like everything said in that locker room at halftime… that third quarter was almost prophesied in the locker room.” Pollard said his interception return for a touchdown was a crucial component of Rice’s defensive effort contributing to the victory. “Any time I get the ball [on a pick], I tell myself in my head that I’m taking it all the way back,” Pollard said. “I knew in the back of my head that I was going to take it all the way back and give us a spark and get us going.”According to Jackson, the defensive effort, particularly Pollard’s defensive score early in the second half, was the most important component of the team’s win.“I think [the defense] was the focal point; they set the tone for us and we kind of just fed off of them,” Jackson said. “It’s amazing how Coach Bailiff always talks about how we’re going to need each other, and it resonated in this game because in the first half we had a really big play on the first play, and after that we were just stagnant. We weren’t really able to get anything going all the way up to the second half, so for the defense to come out and get us a turnover at that time was very crucial.”Bailiff said he was proud of the team’s resiliency and determination to win in the face of adversity.“[I’m] just so proud of this football team, the way they fought and played for four quarters,” Bailiff said. “Even when things weren’t going [well], all you heard were guys talking about what they were going to do the next time they were out there, what they’re going to do for the next play, what they’re going to do for the team.”The Owls recorded four sacks and nine tackles for loss, led by junior defensive lineman Christian Covington, who recorded one and a half sacks in the game. Covington said the dominance of the defensive line in the second half allowed the defense to have fun playing football while also helping the team win.“It was a great defensive effort, especially in the second half,” Covington said. “To be on the field during that time brings back memories of childhood, just being able to have fun playing football. I’m happy with this defense and I’m so excited for this team to get a win like that.”Rice will look to earn its fifth-straight victory against Florida International University on Saturday, Nov. 1 in Miami, Florida. FIU currently boasts a 3-5 record, including a 2-4 record against Division 1 opponents. FIU is coming off a 45-13 loss to Marshall University and has the 107th ranked offense in the country, totalling an average of 21.5 points per game. A victory would improve the Owls’ record to 5-3 and 3-1 in conference and would put them one win away from bowl eligibility. The game against FIU will kick off at 11 a.m. in Miami, Florida.

SPORTS 10/26/14 12:02pm

Football defeats North Texas

The Rice University football team defeated the University of North Texas 41-21 Saturday, Oct.  25 and improved its record to 4-3 overall and 2-1 in Conference USA, giving the Owls their fourth consecutive victory.Facing off against the Mean Green, the Owls were seeking their fourth consecutive victory and second straight conference win. Rice scored on the first offensive play of the game on an 88 yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Driphus Jackson to senior wide receiver Jordan Taylor, tying the record for the longest scoring play in school history. Rice and North Texas would exchange scores for the remainder of the first quarter, ending the opening period tied at 14 points apiece. North Texas scored the only touchdown of the second quarter and carried a 21-14 lead heading into halftime.The Owls came out of halftime and scored 27 unanswered points to secure the 41-21 victory. The Rice defense held North Texas to only 45 yards of offense in the second half, helping Rice to its 10th home victory in its last 11 home games.Rice’s offense, led by Jackson, totaled 233 passing yards and 188 rushing yards in the game. Jackson completed 13 of 26 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown while sophomore running backs Jowan Davis and Darik Dillard combined for 135 yards and three touchdowns. Taylor led the team in receiving, recording 137 yards on four catches and becoming the fourth player in school history to surpass 2,000 career receiving yards.Rice’s defense highlighted the team’s winning effort, particularly in the second half, holding North Texas to 216 yards, the best defensive performance of the season and 133 yards below North Texas’s season average.Less than five minutes into the third quarter, junior cornerback Ryan Pollard intercepted a pass from North Texas quarterback Andrew McNulty and returned it for a touchdown, giving the Owls their first defensive score of the season.Pollard said the score was a crucial component of Rice’s defensive effort contributing to the victory."Any time I get the ball [on a pick], I tell myself in my head that I'm taking it all the way back," Pollard said. "I knew in the back of my head that I was going to take it all the way back and give us a spark and get us going."The Owls recorded four sacks and nine tackles for loss, led by junior defensive lineman Christian Covington, who recorded one and a half sacks in the game.Rice will look to earn its fifth straight victory against Florida International University on Saturday, Nov. 1 in Miami, FL. FIU currently boasts a 3-5 record, including a 2-4 record against Division-1 opponents. FIU is coming off a 45-13 loss to Marshall University and has the 107th ranked offense in the country, totalling an average of 21.5 points per game. A victory would improve the Owls’ record to 5-3 and 3-1 in conference and would put them one win away from bowl eligibility.The game against FIU will kick off at 11 a.m. CST in Miami, FL.

SPORTS 10/21/14 4:21pm

Club baseball player ascends to varsity team

Despite not being recruited out of high school, Sanjiv Gopalkrishnan has found his way onto Rice University’s varsity baseball team.Gopalkrishnan, a McMurtry College sophomore, played catcher in high school and continued on to play for the Rice club baseball team. After playing for the club team last year, Gopalkrishnan was elected president of the team before the school year and played with the club team through the first month of the year. After the varsity team’s catchers sustained multiple injuries, however, Gopalkrishnan was given the opportunity to join the varsity team. According to Gopalkrishnan, the opportunity came from the team’s injury situation as well as his relationship with coaches and players.“The story is that one week they had two freshmen catchers get hurt,” Gopalkrishnan said. “Because I made friends with some people on the team last year, they said, ‘Hey, Sanjiv can catch, he’s on the club team, give him a call and I’m sure he’ll do it.’ So Coach [Patrick] Hallmark called me and he asked if I could come out, and the rest is history.”Gopalkrishnan also said he credits his rise to the friendships he made with the varsity team athletes last season.“The first person who recommended me was Michael Aquino, who is a fifth-year student now,” Gopalkrishnan said. “J.C. [Reeves], who was actually one of the catchers who got hurt also backed him up, and Connor Teykl as well.”Since being called up to the varsity team, which lost last season in the regional round of the postseason, Gopalkrishnan has had to adjust to the gap in playing ability and commitment. “[The difference in] skill level is huge,” Gopalkrishnan said. “With club, sometimes last year it was a struggle to get nine guys on the field, whereas for varsity there’s backups for every position and everyone is skilled enough to start. Just in terms of velocities, it’s expected that you throw 85 to 90 [miles per hour], whereas the fastest guy we have for club throws 78.”Although he has joined the varsity team for the fall, Gopalkrishnan understands his role on the team. According to Gopalkrishnan, his responsibility will be to help in practice and make sure pitchers are warmed up before they enter a game. “I see myself being in a purely supporting role,” Gopalkrishnan said. “I don’t expect to play much, if at all. I expect to catch in the bullpen. I don’t even know if I’m on the team for the spring, but for the fall, I’m catching bullpen. I get to play in the intrasquad scrimmage though, which is really cool.”Despite not starting nor earning significant playing time, Gopalkrishnan has embraced the new position with open arms. Even though his chances of earning a roster spot on the team in spring are slim, Gopalkrishnan said he knows he’ll always be viewed as a member of the team.“Michael [Aquino] told me that once you’re on the team, it’s like a fraternity,” Gopalkrishnan said. “They’re always looking out for you — they’re basically your brothers. At first, I got some weird looks, but now I’m definitely part of the team. They all welcome me, and I’m sure that, even if I’m not practicing during the spring, if they see me in the stands they’ll all appreciate me being there and supporting them.”Although he has spent most of the time this season catching in the bullpen, Gopalkrishnan has gained playing experience in intrasquad and competitive situations. Gopalkrishnan earned his first career hit as a Division I athlete on Wednesday, Oct. 15 in an intrasquad scrimmage. Gopalkrishnan is now 1-3 batting in the fall season with an RBI.

SPORTS 10/21/14 4:20pm

Football prepares for North Texas following three-game win streak

Coming off a bye week and riding a three-game winning streak, the Rice University football team (3-3, 1-1 C-USA) returns home this weekend to face the University of North Texas.Despite starting off the season with three consecutive losses, the Owls have rebounded to even their record midway through the season. After averaging 23 points per game across the three losses, the Owls have averaged nearly 37 points per game over the past three games while holding their opponents to just over 19 points per game.UNT (2-5, 0-3 C-USA) is currently riding a three-game losing streak, losing by an average of 23 points to Indiana University, the University of Alabama, Birmingham and the University of Southern Mississippi, which Rice defeated 41-23 on Sept. 27.Both teams feature low-ranked defenses, however, as the Mean Green have the 96th-ranked defense, giving up an average of 32 points per game, while the Owls have the 93rd-ranked defense, sacrificing 31.5 points per game.Junior quarterback Driphus Jackson has shown improvement over the past three games as well, throwing for 635 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions. The increased offensive productivity can be attributed in part to the return of all-conference senior wide receiver Jordan Taylor, who, after not playing in the first three games, has caught eight passes for 175 yards and two touchdowns over the last two games.Rice’s rushing offense has continued to produce yardage and points through sophomore running backs Jowan Davis and Darik Dillard, who have rushed for 924 yards and eight touchdowns on the year combined. The UNT game will be the third Conference USA matchup of the year for the Owls. Rice began the conference schedule by losing to Old Dominion University 45-42, then defeating Southern Miss in Mississippi. A victory against UNT would help the Owls in their attempt to repeat last season’s conference championship, as the Owls are currently tied for second place in the C-USA West Division with the University of Texas, El Paso.The game against UNT will kick off at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 25 in Rice Stadium.

SPORTS 10/21/14 4:19pm

Soccer splits weekend series in Florida

The Rice University soccer team traveled to South Florida this past weekend and split two games against Conference USA opponents. The first weekend game featured a 2-1 loss to Florida International University, followed by a 3-2 victory against Florida Atlantic University. Rice is 8-3-3 on the season with a 4-2-1 C-USA record. The Panthers held Rice scoreless for nearly the entire match, and scored in the 55th minute, giving them a 1-0 advantage midway through the second half. In the 89th minute, however, Rice senior forward Lauren Hughes scored the tying goal with 43 seconds on the clock remaining to send the teams into overtime. Just seven minutes into overtime, FIU found the back of the net to clinch the win. On Sunday afternoon, Rice beat FAU 3-2. By the 16th minute of play, Rice had already taken a 3-0 advantage from goals by junior midfielder Danielle Spriggs, Hughes and freshman midfielder Samantha Chaiken. However, FAU continued to chip away at the Rice lead by scoring two goals by the 60th minute. Rice was outshot 11-4 in the second half but found a way to hang on and secure the 3-2 victory. Head Coach Nicky Adams said she was disappointed with the team’s performance in Friday night’s loss against FIU, but satisfied with the win against FAU.“Our Friday night performance was the first game [I felt] our entire team did not play well,” Adams said. “We couldn’t get over them, couldn’t play our style of game and struggled as a unit. However, I’m proud of our team for rebounding well with three goals on Sunday.” According to Adams, the upcoming home games are critical to the team’s success, particularly with only three regular-season games remaining. “We now have two home games against [Old Dominion University] and [the University of North Carolina, Charlotte], which are our last two home games,” Adams said. “We’ll be ready to go … and still have nine points to earn to close out our C-USA season.” Hughes said the lower level of play the Owls have had over the past three matches has concerned her, but she is happy to see her team return to its winning ways after the FAU game. “We definitely had a bit of a slump where we didn’t play Rice soccer and allowed the other teams to dictate the way we were playing,” Hughes said. “I think our team’s ability to bounce back from the slump shows the grit we have … and I’m extremely excited that we are back to playing our game.”Spriggs said the game against FAU helped the team return to form and focus on finishing the season strong. “At FAU, we got back to what makes us a great team, and hopefully we carry that with us the rest of the season,” Spriggs said. “We have three games left in Conference, and winning all three of those is really important. We’re excited to go [out and] take care of business.”The Owls return home this weekend for the final two home games of the season. The Owls will compete against Old Dominion University Friday at 7 p.m for Senior Night and the University of North Carolina, Charlotte Sunday at noon. With three games left in Conference play, the Owls are tied for second place and are looking to catch up to the University of North Texas, who currently leads the conference by one game.