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Thursday, August 18, 2022 — Houston, TX


SPORTS 9/1/15 2:35pm

Defense looks to rebuild in 2015 season

“Get the ball out! Get the ball out!” one can hear Defensive Coordinator Chris Thurmond yelling at his defense during practices. Since Thurmond took over as defensive coordinator in 2012, turnovers and energy have been the hallmark of a defensive mentality that has steadily been implemented in his four years at Rice, a strategy the team hopes will lead to success in 2015.The team will run a multiple defense, meaning the defense will change its formation based on its opponent. According to Thurmond, the defensive strategy will allow the defense to read and adapt to different offenses.“We have the ability to change up depending on whoever we play and what their tendencies are,” Thurmond said.The 2015 defense is returning four of 11 starters from the 2014 team. The lack of experience on the defense may concern some, but according to redshirt junior linebacker Alex Lyons, the defense is determined to make a name for itself in 2015.“We’re young, but we’re talented and we’re very hungry, and I think we’re going to put on a show,” Lyons said.The Owls will have a young defense in 2015, particularly in the secondary. While the team lost considerable leadership and talent in the form of defensive tackle Christian Covington, defensive end Brian Nordstrom and cornerback Bryce Callahan this past season, several pillars remain. Lyons, the team’s leading tackler in 2014 with 71, will be returning to lead the linebacking core. On the defensive line, redshirt sophomore Graysen Schantz is joined by fellow redshirt sophomore Brian Womac and redshirt senior Stuart Mouchantaf, both of whom are returning from injuries. In the secondary, senior Ryan Pollard, the team’s top cornerback heading into 2015, is also coming back for his final season. With the returning talent, Lyons said coaches and returning players are not concerned. “We have a lot of great athletes on the back end who can play the ball, and up front we’re experienced and can beat people up,” Lyons said. “So [we can] get the ball out, get a couple ducks and get a lot of turnovers this year.”Head Coach David Bailiff is also confident in his 2015 team, despite the losses sustained. In particular, the coaching staff knew during the 2014 season they would lose seniors in the secondary. According to Bailiff, they were prepared for these losses and are confident in their ability to hold up against the pass.“We spent a lot of time getting young guys some playing time last year, since we knew we’d be hit hard by graduation,” Bailiff said. “We’ve got guys like Ryan Pollard and [redshirt junior] J.T. Blasingame that have played well in practice, and [sophomore] V.J. Banks got some playing time last year. It’s a young secondary, and a young team, but we have a lot of depth.”While they were happy with their performance in a 30-7 victory in the Hawai’i Bowl over Fresno State University that concluded the 2014 season, the team has been motivated this offseason by their performance in the game prior. Heading into the season finale with a 7-4 overall record and a 5-2 record within Conference USA, Rice faced off against Louisiana Tech University with a berth in the C-USA title game on the line. The Owls, however, were unable to pull it out. They were outgained in total yardage 677-371 while also committing four turnovers, resulting in a 76-31 loss.Bailiff said the loss pushed the players to redeem themselves in the bowl game, and has even provided continuing motivation going into this season.“I think you saw in the bowl game how motivated our guys were, how prepared we were for that game and how well we played,” Bailiff said. “That loss has definitely kept us energized heading into this season. Every year we want to win conference, we want to be a top 25 team. And we think we can do that this season.”Lyons and the defense was similarly motivated by the loss.“It’s extremely motivating during workouts when we’re out here in 100-degree weather,” Lyons said. “We had a power outage in our weight room and we were still working out. There’s nothing more motivating when you see that clip and the highlights of that clip. You never want that to happen.”Given the Owls’ 2015 opponents, one thing is certain: The defense will be tested. They will face off against the University of Texas, Austin and Baylor University this season, two schools that have consistently sent top-tier talent to the National Football League in recent years. Within C-USA, two opponents in particular stand out: Louisiana Tech, who will be quarterbacked by former Florida Gator Jeff Driskel, and Western Kentucky, a team led by 2014 C-USA MVP quarterback Brandon Doughty. Though these prolific offenses are on the schedule, Lyons said the defense is up to the task.“A lot of people are questioning the defense because we’re going to be pretty young,” Lyons said. “Anybody who has questions can come see for themselves, sit back and enjoy the show.”The season commences Sept. 5 at 2:30 p.m. in a home matchup against the Wagner Seahawks.

SPORTS 9/1/15 2:34pm

Volleyball takes two of three in tournament

Rice volleyball opened its 2015 season with a trip to Austin, Texas for the American Campus Classic this weekend. The Owls began the tournament with a 0-3 loss against the nationally ranked No. 3 University of Texas, Austin on Friday afternoon. On Saturday, Rice made a dramatic comeback against Louisiana State University following a 2-0 deficit and completed the tournament with a 3-1 win against University of California, Irvine.Junior libero Kimberly Vaio said she attributes Friday’s loss to the team’s anxiety.“First matches typically are not the cleanest; we went into UT and the first set environment and the nerves got to us,” Vaio said. “We were missing serves, the passes weren’t crisp and we were making errors at the wrong times.”Rice struggled on offense during their match against UT. The Owls trailed behind the Longhorns, hitting only .067 compared to UT’s .333. According to Head Coach Genny Volpe, Rice was unable to compete against Texas’ consistent offense.“They had firepower coming from all directions and a great setter who ran a very balanced offense,” Volpe said. “We had trouble defending this and, more importantly, had a hard time getting our offense going due to their tough serving.”Despite the loss, Vaio said the match against UT prepared the Owls to face LSU.“Though we lost, we knew we had things to work out and we knew that our best volleyball was yet to come,” Vaio said. “It made us that much more motivated for LSU.”Following Friday’s loss, Rice rallied back Saturday morning and beat LSU after overcoming a 2-0 deficit. According to Vaio, the Owls were frustrated after the first two games against LSU and every member of the team was committed to rallying back and winning the match. “We all knew that we were the better team and we were tired of giving them the game, so we looked at each other and we made a commitment that we were going to win the next three games,” Vaio said. “Each one of us knew that there was no other option than winning and we were ready to do everything it took to pull it off.”The last time the Owls beat the Tigers was Nov. 27, 2009, and Rice’s all-time record against LSU is a mere 3-19. Volpe said she attributes the surprising victory to mental toughness.“This team is certainly showing that they are resilient and that they are mentally tough,” Volpe said. “It takes that level of mental toughness to come back and win against a solid program, after losing five straight sets in a row.”Rice completed the weekend with a 3-1 win against UC Irvine and finished second in their opening tournament. Vaio said she was proud of her team’s performance and improvements from past seasons. “I am really proud of the team for our performance this weekend,” Vaio said. “It’s tough to bounce back from a loss right away,but we proved that we have the mindset to do it. Also,for the past three years we have struggled winning fifth games and we proved right off the bat that even if we are down by two games, we have what it takes to finish.”According to Volpe, the Owls need to improve on their consistency and execution on offense.“We need to improve our consistency,” Volpe said. “We were up and down all weekend which made us less efficient. We will continue to work on this and keep pressing the envelope in what we can do offensively.” The Owls will next play at Yale University on Sept. 4, where they will face off against University of California, Santa Barbara. 

SPORTS 9/1/15 2:32pm

Soccer wins three straight matches

With a mix of senior leadership and talented newcomers, the Rice Owls soccer club defeated two in-state foes this past weekend, winning a total of three consecutive matches. On Friday, Aug. 28, the team defeated Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi 2-0. Rice followed up this performance with a 2-0 victory over Sam Houston State University at the neutral site of BBVA Compass Stadium. After falling to the No. 5 nationally ranked Texas A&M University squad in the opening match of the 2015 season last week, the Owls have remained unbeaten and are currently 3-1 in the season. The senior duo of forward Lauren Hughes and midfielder Danielle Spriggs led the Owls to the 2-0 victory over Texas A&M, Corpus Christi. The scoring began in the 30th minute when Hughes launched a free kick from the left side of the 18-yard penalty area that connected with the top corner of the net to give Rice the 1-0 advantage. The Owls continued to push in the second half to attempt to increase their lead. The second goal finally came in the 76th minute of the match. Hughes found Spriggs on the outside of the goal, who then fired a strike past the keeper to give Rice an insurance goal and a 2-0 lead. On the same day opposing goalkeeper Megan Delaney registered 12 saves, the Owls defense limited the Islanders attack to just seven shots and three corner kicks en route to their first shutout of the season. Sunday afternoon, the Owls competed in the first-ever women’s collegiate soccer match held at BBVA Compass Stadium, the home of the Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash professional soccer clubs. The Owls were victorious in similar fashion to Friday’s matchup with a final score of 2-0 led by one goal and one assist by Hughes. With 17 first-half shots taken against Sam Houston State, the high-pressure and constant Owl attack paid off in the 41st minute when freshman forward Annie Walker sent a ball into the attacking middle and found Hughes, who tapped it into the near post for her third goal of the season and 35th goal of her Rice career. Riding the momentum from opening up the scoring, the Owls scored again just 62 seconds later when Hughes drove a ball to freshman forward Nia Stallings running alongside her for the tap-in that gave the Owls a 2-0 advantage. A significant play occurred 73 minutes into the match when Sam Houston was awarded a penalty kick following a Rice foul in the box. Junior goalkeeper Zoe Pochobradsky blocked the kick, halting Sam Houston State’s momentum.Head Coach Nicky Adams said she was pleased with the toughness her defense and midfield showed in recording back to back shutouts.“I thought this was a good weekend for us after coming off A&M and San Jose, where we had goals scored on us,” Adams said. “This was a weekend where we really wanted … to get tougher back there [and] overall I think our back line and our midfield did a much better job."Adams said certain key bench players stepped up and contributed to the overall performance of the team.“I thought we had some key players step up for us off the bench in a big way,” Adams said. “Madeleine Lundberg in the midfield, Nia Stallings [and] Annie Walker all gave us that spark and attacking presence.”Spriggs said she felt the team played their best game of the season on Friday by coming out the gate ready to go.“I think Friday was our best overall [and complete] game so far that we have played,” Spriggs said. “Every single position was on point and … we didn’t take any time to get adjusted to the game; we just came out strong at every position.” Pochobradsky said her penalty kick save combined skill and a bit of luck.“I never guess on a penalty kick, [but] my coach always says to trust your instincts,” Pochobradsky said. “You get up to the line and you kind of hope for the best and I guess I got lucky today.”Pochobradsky said the team must remain focused in the face of a tough out-of-conference schedule ahead.“We’ve got to start recovering from this weekend and stay mentally checked in,” Pochobradsky said. “We’re going to work on organization and keeping the ball, because when we keep the ball we are absolutely unstoppable.”The Owls return home to Holloway Field this upcoming Thursday, Sept. 3 at 6 p.m. to face Southern Methodist University. The Owls will then play on Sunday, Sept. 6 against the University of Arkansas, a team the Owls played to a 1-1 draw last season. Kickoff for the match is scheduled for 7 p.m.

SPORTS 9/1/15 2:32pm

Wagner presents unique challenge

When Rice University takes the field for the first time this season, it will be against a very unfamiliar opponent.Wagner College, a liberal arts school in Staten Island, New York, will make a trip to Houston on Sept. 5. With an undergraduate population of under 2,000, Wagner is the seventh-smallest school at the Division 1-AA level, the second-highest division of collegiate football and a tier below Rice’s Division 1-A status.Wagner College first began competing in football in 1927, where today they compete in the Northeast Conference. The Seahawks’ home field is Hameline Field at Wagner College Stadium, named in honor of Walt Hameline, the current athletic director who just resigned as head football coach after the 2014 season. Hameline, the 49th-winningest head coach in college football history, compiled 223 wins in 34 seasons as head coach, including winning the 1987 NCAA Division III National Football Championship. Wagner made the move to Division I in 1992.Wagner will now begin its first season since 1981 without Hameline leading the team. First-year Head Coach Jason Houghtaling will take the helm of the program where he previously served as offensive coordinator. Houghtaling has spent seven seasons at Wagner, serving as offensive coordinator during Wagner’s 2012 and 2014 Northeast Conference title runs.During the 2014 season, the Seahawks posted a 7-4 season record including 4-1 in conference play, which placed them in a tie for first, but did not earn a trip to the FCS playoffs. Among their four losses was a 34-3 road defeat at the hands of Conference USA first-year member Florida International University. Rice defeated FIU last season 31-17. Offensively, Wagner returns seven starters from a squad that averaged 20.7 points per game in 2014. Senior quarterback Chris Andrews will lead the offense after throwing for 657 yards and three touchdowns on 42 percent completion percentage. Andrews also possesses dual-threat ability, adding 468 yards and four touchdowns through the ground. Additionally, leading rusher Otis Wright returns after rushing for 598 yards and six touchdowns last season. Wagner was more effective rushing the ball than passing last season, as the rushing attack outgained the passing game 1,767 yards to 1,484. Conversely, Rice rushed for 2,181 yards and passed for 3,009 last season.Defensively, Wagner only returned five of 11 starters from last year’s team which sacrificed 18 points per game. Wagner gave up only 914 yards on the ground last season but allowed 2,180 yards passing. With a defensive unit returning only one defensive back, Rice redshirt senior quarterback Driphus Jackson and the offense may look to capitalize on Wagner’s rebuilding defense.According to Head Coach David Bailiff, Rice cannot overlook Wagner despite their lower-division status.“All we’ve talked about since January is Wagner,” Bailiff said. “We’ve been telling them that it’s the most important game on the schedule and that you can’t overlook them. ... But you listen to the seniors talk and the theme is pretty consistent that we’re not going to overlook these guys.”Bailiff also said he knows Wagner will give their best effort to try and upset a bigger-name program.“This is the first time in 100 straight games that we’re playing a [Division 1-AA] team,” Bailiff said. “That’s one where we know that we’re going to get their best. I used to coach at that level. We used to play the [Texas] A&M’s and I remember how motivated our guys were to make a point. We know that Wagner is going to be challenging for us.”Rice is 7-3 all-time against Division 1-AA opponents. The Owls last played such an opponent in 2007, a 14-16 loss which came at the hands of Nicholls State University. Rice will open its season against Wagner on Saturday, Sept. 5 at 2:30 p.m.  at Rice Stadium.

SPORTS 8/27/15 12:42pm

The Fifth Quarter: We are all Rice Owls

For years I have been a proponent of increasing Rice pride. I’ve said it to friends, family and I’ve even used this column to increase awareness of this issue. Rice students are often too focused on schoolwork or the happenings in their residential colleges to realize that we all have something in common: We’re all Owls.The administration seems to agree. Having participated in this year’s Orientation Week, that much was readily apparent. It seemed the administration tried to cultivate a unity within Rice that may have been lacking in the past. During O-Week, it was clear that Rice tried to increase school pride, but at the expense of residential college pride. Seeing it first hand, my attitude toward the issue changed. The two are not mutually exclusive, and the assumption that they are has a negative impact on our college experience.I do and will always stand by my belief that Rice students need more pride in their school. That does not mean, however, that they cannot simultaneously have college pride. With the elimination of cheer battle and the deferral of teaching anti-cheers until the very end of the week, it was clear the administration sought to promote a unified campus focused on inclusivity. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the concept, but the execution was flawed. Events such as Rice Rally during O-Week are fun and effective in cultivating Rice pride, but eliminating other events designated to promote college pride are not helping the issue.Part of the reason many of us came to Rice is the residential college system. Trying to tone down college rivalries and understate the differences between colleges is counter to what Rice has been and should be. We need to protect the college system that makes Rice special. There is no reason college and university pride need to be exclusive. Have pride in your college, but understand what binds us all together. Our colleges are all great, but there is something even greater than that. As Rice students, we are afforded the ability to live in our colleges, obtain a great degree and continue to have a connection to our university. One of the best ways to stay connected to your alma mater is through athletics.When we all graduate, are we going to watch college powderpuff games or Rice football games? Both are great, but a college represents around 400 students while the university represents every Rice student and alum the world over. Love your college and love your university. They are both incredible institutions that need to be preserved and improved. One does not need to improve at the expense of the other.I consider myself both a Rice student and a Murt. The two are not mutually exclusive. Trying to decrease the influence of individual residential colleges to increase Rice spirit is not a solution. It is trying to fix a problem in an ineffective and potentially harmful manner. Go to Rice games. Go to college games. Root for both with spirit and pride. In the end, remember your college and how it acted as your home for four years. But never forget what we all have in common: We are all Rice Owls.The Fifth Quarter is a column written by Sports Editor Evan Neustater. The opinions expressed in the column are solely his own.

SPORTS 8/27/15 12:39pm

Soccer to receive new grandstand

The stadium that, prior to last year, hosted Rice’s soccer and track and field teams was destroyed over the summer, a precursor to the rebuilding of a new $2 million stadium.According to the university, the new stadium will feature 1,500 seats for fans. The seating will include a mix of bleacher and chairback seating, an asset largely missing from the previous stadium. Additionally, the new stadium will have an enclosed press box and facilities for the teams, both improvements over its predecessor. The renovation, which is being fully funded by the university itself, is the next of several stadium improvements Rice has witnessed in recent years. Last year, Rice began construction on the Brian Patterson Sports Performance Center in the north end zone of Rice Stadium. Additionally, the new George R. Brown tennis complex finished construction last year and Tudor Fieldhouse underwent renovations in 2014.The new stadium will replace the previous stadium which served for nearly 50 years. Built in 1966 on the original site of Rice Stadium, which moved to its current location in 1950, the Ley Stadium was deemed unsafe last season and spectators and athletes alike were forced to avoid using its facilities. For the entirety of the 2015 soccer season, fans will be seated in temporary bleachers and standing room. The new stadium will be designed by Jackson & Ryan Architects and is expected to be completed in January 2016. Athletics could not be reached for comments.

SPORTS 8/27/15 12:38pm

Rice football looks to make championship run

Rice football will look to build upon its recent success under Head Coach David Bailiff, confident that they can compete for their second Conference USA title in three years and qualify for their fourth consecutive bowl game. Bailiff has engineered one of the more remarkable turnarounds of an athletic program in recent memory. When he was hired as coach in 2007, Rice had qualified for only one bowl game in the previous 45 years; in his eight years as coach, Rice has qualified for four, including a 30-7 victory over Fresno State University in the Hawai’i Bowl last season. The talent coming through the school is also being recognized by the National Football League: Seven Owls have been drafted under Bailiff, including at least one draft pick in each of the last four seasons. Members of last year’s team currently playing in the NFL are Houston Texans defensive tackle Christian Covington, a sixth-round pick, as well as Chicago Bears cornerback Bryce Callahan, Denver Broncos wide receiver Jordan Taylor, and San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Mario Hull. One of the hallmarks of Bailiff’s tenure at Rice has been continuity. Over the past two seasons, there have been no changes to the coaching staff, a rarity in Division I college football. An additional advantage Rice has is continuity at the game’s most important position: quarterback. Rice’s redshirt senior quarterback Driphus Jackson is entering his second season as the starter. Much of the excitement surrounding Rice football in 2015 is based on anticipated improvement from Jackson, who threw 24 touchdowns and 8 interceptions in his first season as the sole starter.In addition to being a redshirt senior and the quarterback of the team, Jackson is also entering his second year as a team captain. Bailiff said the leadership role is one that Jackson has accepted and one in which he has excelled.“He’s out there, he’s leading,” Bailiff said. “He’s not too worried about being liked, he wants to win. He’s there to hug people when they need it, reminding his teammates of their responsibilities, and we’re very excited about it.”Several key players from 2014 are returning this season with Jackson: junior running back Jowan Davis and redshirt junior linebacker Alex Lyons. However, graduation has taken several starters from both sides of the ball, which cannot be overlooked.Jordan Taylor and Mario Hull were the leading receivers on last year’s team, so at first glance, losing both may seem harmful to the 2015 team’s chances. Despite their leaving, Bailiff said he is confident in their younger replacements.“At receiver, we have [redshirt junior] Zach Wright and [senior] Dennis Parks stepping into bigger roles,” Bailiff said. “Both have looked good in practice. Also, [redshirt freshman] Lance Wright is a younger guy who didn’t play a lot last year, but is very talented.”Additionally, Bailiff specifically mentioned a few players who could make an impact this season. According to Bailiff, senior Luke Turner is a versatile player who could make significant plays at a variety of positions this season.“[Senior] Luke Turner is a guy that plays tight end and some [halfback] — he does a lot of things for us,” Bailiff said. “He’s a player to look out for this season.”According to Jackson, the loss of the top two receivers has not slowed the efficiency of the offense.“We haven’t had any falloff,” Jackson said. “A lot of guys have stepped up and been watching Mario [Hull] and those guys play. I’m just excited for those guys to step up and show their talent.”A common idiom in football is a team is only as strong as its offensive line. Three offensive linemen were lost to graduation, which may be a cause for concern. Jackson, however, is not concerned, and said he has faith in the new offensive line.“[Bailiff] has done a good job in mixing lineups and getting everybody comfortable with one another, so I don’t see too much falloff there at all,” Jackson said. “Maybe it’ll take a couple of games for them to gel, but once we get to the grit of the season, we should be fine.”Rice opens its season on Sept. 5 against Wagner University. Kickoff for the game is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. at Rice Stadium.

SPORTS 8/27/15 12:38pm

Volleyball seeks revenge in conference

Following a successful 2014 campaign, Rice volleyball will look to build off of its momentum to capture a Conference USA title and an NCAA tournament bid this fall. Rice last appeared in the 2014 C-USA championship game where they fell to Western Kentucky University and the team’s overall record (23-10) was the fifth-best in school history. Rice was picked by the conference’s coaches to finish third in their conference behind University of Texas, San Antonio and WKU.According to Head Coach Genny Volpe, consistent leadership and a balanced offense led to last season’s successes.“Last season we had some great senior leadership. … We had several players pushing each other every day in practice, which led us to improve over the course of the season,” Volpe said. “We also had a very balanced offense, which we look forward to replicating this year. … We really stepped up our kill numbers and our hitting efficiency was one of the best in the nation.”Newly elected captain and junior libero Kimberly Vaio said the team’s strongest asset last season was the its cohesiveness on and off the court.“We wore the same shirts to practice, ate team meals without cell phones and made decisions as a unit,” Vaio said. “Our discipline we demonstrated off the court translated to our positions on the court; we were mentally prepared before matches, and we welcomed adversity with confidence because we knew that together we could overcome anything.”Despite their strengths and ability to work together, Rice was unable to earn the C-USA title and advance to the NCAA tournament. Volpe said last season’s shortcomings were due to an inability to finish at critical moments. However, Volpe said she believes the fresh team will not suffer from the same issues.“We were in the driver’s seat on some occasions against really strong teams, including the C-USA championship match, and we didn’t finish,” Volpe said. “This is a new team with a lot of new faces; I believe that those issues have not carried over to this group.”This season, Rice has 11 returning players and four new additions, including a transfer student, a junior walk-on and two freshmen. Volpe is confident in her players’ abilities despite the loss of strong players such as Jillian Humphrey.“We have a strong group of returners, even though we lost some key players from last year’s squad,” Volpe said. “This could be the best team in terms of depth we have had in the history of Rice volleyball.”According to Volpe, the team needs to concentrate on winning conference.“We are very focused on competing at the highest level we can every time we step on the floor,”  Volpe said. “We want to win C-USA and make it to postseason.  We were very close last year, and want to finish strong this year.”The Owls will begin their season Aug. 28 against the University of Texas, Austin.

SPORTS 8/27/15 12:37pm

Soccer looks to repeat championship season

The 2015 Rice women’s soccer team is coming off what was perhaps their greatest season in school history. Last season, the Owls closed out the season with a 14-4-3 overall record. The 14 victories tied the school record for most wins in program history, while the four losses set the record for fewest losses in program history. Additionally, the Owls went undefeated at home, securing six victories and two ties. The program set another record by maintaining a nine-match unbeaten streak from Aug. 24 to Oct. 5, 2014. As the No. 2 overall seed in the 2014 Conference USA tournament, Rice won all three matches and earned an automatic bid to the 2014 NCAA tournament as conference champions for just the third time in school history. The historic run ended at the hands of the University of Texas, Austin in the opening round of the tournament. In 2015, Rice was selected by the Conference USA head coaches to finish first in C-USA for the first time since 2001. The accolades did not finish there as senior forward Lauren Hughes was named the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year and junior defender Jenny Fichera was named Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. Senior forward Holly Hargreaves rounded out the honors as a member of the C-USA All-Conference team. Despite losing four key players to graduation in goalkeeper Amy Czyz, midfielder Gabriela Iribarne, defender Ashton Geisendorff and midfielder Quinny Truong, a core group of remaining starters and a talented recruiting class have not dampened any expectations for the upcoming season. Six true freshmen from all over the country have already contributed to the team’s chemistry and success. The freshman trio of midfielder Dominique Mazero, defender Gabby Martinez and forward Annie Walker has already seen significant playing time early in the season. Additionally, junior transfer from the Air Force Academy Madeleine Lundberg promises to make an impact this season.Hughes is coming off a season in which she earned C-USA Offensive Player of the Year honors. She led not only her squad but the entire conference in goals and points with 14 and 35, respectively. The Ottawa, Ontario native has one more year as a Rice Owl, but has already set the Rice record for career goals with 33 and points with 88. During one stretch in the 2014 season, Hughes scored in seven consecutive matches, also setting a Rice record. On the defensive end of the pitch, Fichera was a staple of a 2014 defense that posted 11 complete game shutouts on the season. Fichera has been a starter for all 39 games of her Rice career and has recorded 90 or more minutes in 18 of 21 matches played last season. In addition to her defensive abilities, Fichera has the capability to attack from an advanced midfield position, scoring four goals last season and serving in five assists. The final preseason honor by a Rice Owl was awarded to Hargreaves, who was the complement to Hughes all season long. Hargreaves ranked among the top in C-USA and the NCAA last season with 10 goals to her name. She broke the Rice school record for goals in a single game with four against Louisiana Tech and is currently the school record holder with 12 game-winning goals and 209 career shots.Head Coach Nicky Adams, who was awarded C-USA Coach of the Year last season, spoke highly of Hughes and Fichera and said they are deserving of the recognition. “It’s very exciting that those two have been recognized,” Adams said. “They completely are 100 percent deserving of those accolades. Again, those are two players who have been nothing but steady for our program. Lauren Hughes is scoring goals and Jenny Fichera provides us a spark in the back so I think they got the voting right on that one.”According to Hughes, the accolades are representative of Rice’s increasing success and attention.“To have Jenny and I named to those spots just shows that the conference really respects our team and to be tagged as the team that’s going to go out there and is expected to win it, that’s a huge compliment,” Hughes said. “[Preseason awards] show the respect we’ve earned from our conference and I just hope that we are willing to do the work and live up to the expectations our conference has for us.” Adams said the team will respond to high expectations with confidence and hard work. “It’s definitely a target on our back off the gate and we can do one of two things: freak out from the pressure, or take it and have confidence and grow from it,” Adams said. “With the personnel we have on our team, I think it will be the latter to do that.” According to Fichera, the team needs to take control of games early on and not allow the media’s expectations to interfere with their play.“We need to keep coming out here every single day and realize what we have on our shoulders,” Fichera said. “Everyone’s going to be gunning for us and we need to be ready for it every single game. I think it’s important just for us to play our game. Let us dictate the pace and how fast we are going to play, how slow we are going to play, and not play down to the teams we play but play our best at every opportunity.” The team split two games against Texas A&M University and San Jose State University in the opening weekend of the season. The team will next play at Texas A&M, Corpus Christi Aug. 28, and will return to Houston Aug. 30 to play Sam Houston State University at BBVA Compass Stadium.

SPORTS 8/27/15 12:36pm

Soccer splits opening weekend series

The 2015 Rice women’s soccer season officially began as the Owls hosted No. 5 Texas A&M University on Friday, Aug. 21. With a squad returning seven of its 11 starters from the 2014 Conference USA championship season, Rice came out strong, opening with a 2-1 lead over the Aggies by halftime. The scoring began in the 22nd minute when Rice junior defender Jenny Fichera was brought down inside the penalty area and awarded a penalty kick. Her shot connected with the back of the net to give Rice the early 1-0 advantage. The Aggies quickly responded by scoring just four minutes later to tie the game at one apiece. The Owls would retake the lead on a deflected shot at goal redirected by the boot of true freshman Dominique Mazero in the 29th minute. With the halftime lead, Rice looked to secure an upset against a top-ranked opponent, but the Aggies charged back to score three goals in the second half and went on to win by a 4-2 margin. Head Coach Nicky Adams, entering her fifth full season as head coach of the Owls, said she was pleased with the effort her team gave and the way they battled to open the 2015 season. “I think it was an unbelievable opportunity for us to start our season against the No. 5 ranked team in the nation [because] it showed that we have the capability of playing with a team like that,” Adams said. “I was really happy with the kids [and how] they battled, but at the end of the day they are number five for a reason. ... It’s just something we aspire to be as well.” Senior forward Lauren Hughes said the Owls can be dangerous to any opponent throughout the year, regardless of ranking. “We were up 2-1 in the first half … And it’s exciting to see that we can go forward, we can score goals against teams like [Texas A&M],” Hughes said. “They had a lot of good things to say about us and it was just good to play them… It exposed what we need to work on so we can fix that in time for conference.” Following the Friday night defeat to Texas A&M, the Owls had a quick turnaround to play San Jose State University on Sunday, Aug. 23. With a heat index in the triple digits, the Owls allowed a goal in the 21st minute of the match. As the match dragged on, the Owls continued to look for the equalizer and ultimately scored in the 81st minute when senior Jasmine Isokpunwu rose up and headed the ball into the back of the net to tie the match up at one goal each. After regulation and one 10-minute overtime, the game appeared to be headed toward a draw. However, with just three minutes remaining in the match, Hughes received a short cross from fellow senior Danielle Spriggs and maintained control of the ball in front of goal. A quick strike to the bottom-left corner of the net won the game for the Owls and clinched an opening weekend record of 1-1.Coach Adams said she was proud of how the Owls found a way to get the victory and battled as she claims the team always does. “Today, I expected with how hot it was and us playing at a high pace on Friday … that we were going to have some slow legs a bit,” Adams said. “But what I love about this team is that they’re fighters and they don’t give up. They’re going to find a way to mvvake sure that we battle, especially on our home field. We knew it was going to be a tough game and I’m so proud we finished strong, especially in overtime.” The Owls will be in action once again this weekend when they head to face Texas A&M, Corpus Christi on Friday, Aug. 28 at 7 p.m. Following the match, the Owls will return to Houston on Aug. 30 to face Sam Houston State University at the neutral site of BBVA Compass Stadium. Kickoff for the matchup is scheduled for 4 p.m.

SPORTS 4/22/15 11:00am

Baseball takes weekend series

The Rice University Owls baseball team completed a four-game homestand against two in-state rivals, the University of Houston and the University of Texas, San Antonio. Beginning on Tuesday afternoon, Rice defeated No. 25 Houston 11-0 to even up the Silver Glove Series at one apiece and snap a fourgame losing streak against the Cougars. After heavy thunderstorms postponed Friday’s opening matchup against UTSA, the Owls won both games of the Saturday doubleheader but fell in Sunday’s contest. Rice finished 3-1 on the week and is now 26-16 on the year (14-7 in C-USA).

SPORTS 4/22/15 10:56am

Night of the Owl showcases student athletes

Student athletes gathered in Tudor Fieldhouse for Night of the Owl, an annual event celebrating their athletic and academic achievements. As part of Rice Rally Club, I got the opportunity to support my peer students in a rare, off-the-field context I don’t normally see them in.

SPORTS 4/17/15 10:41am

Tennis on Top

Both men’s and women’s tennis teams start the C-USA Championships as first seed this weekend. 

SPORTS 4/17/15 10:39am

Spring game allows young players to shine

As the Rice University football team wrapped up their spring football practices, the annual Blue-Gray Spring Game took place at Rice Stadium. The game, essentially a scrimmage, featured the offense in blue uniforms and the defense in gray uniforms. 

SPORTS 4/17/15 10:37am

Maryland's Tina Langley named women's coach

In response to Greg Williams’ recent retirement, the Rice University Athletic Department has appointed a new women’s basketball coach: former Maryland University Assistant Coach Tina Langley. Langley will be stepping down from her current position as Associate Head Coach at Maryland to join the Rice women’s team next season. The new head coach made an official visit to Rice last week to assess the campus and the team and to share her vision with the community.

SPORTS 4/17/15 10:35am

The Quest for the Cup

 April has rolled around, and with it, hockey fans around the world are buckling up for the most exciting two months of the year. It’s time for the Stanley Cup playoffs, which I would humbly describe as the most exciting playoffs in sports.