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SPORTS 9/16/12 7:00pm

Arsalan Kazemi receives release to transfer from Rice

Rice Senior Arsalan Kazemi requested a release from the team and received it on Monday. The 6-foot-7 forward had been the Owl's most valuable player, averaging 12.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per game in 2011-2012, making him one of only 21 NCAA division I players to average a double-double last season.

SPORTS 9/13/12 7:00pm

Cole and Murphy awarded C-USA Players of the Week

Rice volleyball players junior Megan Murphy and senior Nancy Cole were named Conference USA Players of the Week. Although the season just started, these two star athletes have played impressive games to earn such accolades. Cole was awarded Offensive Player of the Week, and Murphy was named Setter of the Week for the second week in a row. During the course of last week, Cole executed 47 kills. Then, last weekend at the Magnolia Invitational held at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Miss., where Rice played the University of Mississippi, Cole competed fiercely to earn the 1,000th kill of her collegiate career, becoming just the 13th player in Rice women's volleyball history to do so. Murphy has been leading not only the Owls but C-USA in number of assists and earned herteam spot by contributing 146 assists in just the past week. As the Lady Owls prepare for their last non-conference tournament this weekend, we were able to catch up with Cole and Murphy and ask them a few questions about themselves and the Lady Owls Volleyball team. Rice Thresher: So both of you girls were named to the preseason All-Conference USA Team. Tell me your reactions to the announcement. Nancy Cole: I was honored. It just made me extremely excited for the season and I look forward to the achievements that I can help our team accomplish this year. Megan Murphy: I was pretty excited because I've never gotten anything like this before, but I'm just looking forward to the season. Thresher: Megan, you have been given the honor as C-USA Setter of the Week for two weeks in a row. What do you have to do this week to make it three weeks in a row? Murphy: Well, we're more focused on the wins. This weekend is very important to our team to get three solid wins and to get better. We start conference play next week and we want to go in with some momentum. Thresher: Nancy, congrats on the 1,000th kill. So how does it feel to be a part of such an elite club for Rice volleyball? Cole: It feels amazing. I'm gonna keep going now to continue to help my team out. It is a great feeling to know that all my teammates are behind me and supporting me. We all root each other on and we're such a great team this year and have such a great chemistry. Thresher: So you guys are projected to come out 2nd in conference this year. How do you feel about the team so far, considering the games already played? Murphy: I think we're definitely not to where we need to be right now in terms of our wins and losses, but I definitely think we're learning everyday and getting better in time for conference play. Cole: I agree with Megan, but I also think it's that all these tournaments and all these games have been learning experiences for us and we are definitely trying to improve everyday in practice, our games and matches that we have won and lost. Thresher: What has been your best volleyball moment while being on the Owls team? Cole: Mine is always the same. When I was a freshman and playing and having the conference tournament here at Rice. We beat Tulsa out at the tournament and then went to the NCAA tournament, which was definitely fun. Murphy: Same for me. I redshirted my freshman year and didn't play, but it was awesome to have the conference tournament at home and win it in front of our fans.

SPORTS 9/13/12 7:00pm

Rice makes statement, beats Kansas on the road

After finally getting the Big 12 monkey off their backs against the University of Kansas, the Rice Owls look to take some momentum with them down to Ruston, La. The Owls - who have been defeated against Big 12 teams since the formation of the conference - played up to their potential this past game, coming up with big plays in the clutch. This weekend, the Owls battle the Louisiana Tech University Bulldogs (1-0), who will enter Conference USA next season after leaving the Western Athletic Conference. The Bulldogs, coming off of a WAC Championship and Poinsettia Bowl, have high expectations for this season. The Bulldogs had to cancel their season opener against Texas A&M University, a neutral site game in Shreveport, La., due to the effects of Hurricane Isaac. They then opened their season last weekend against the University of Houston Cougars, traveling to Houston and beating the Cougars in a 56-49 shootout. Even coming off a big victory, the Bulldogs know that Rice will be a difficult opponent.   "They will be much more confident, probably, than we would like for them to be after going on the road and beating a Big 12 team and playing the way they did against UCLA," Bulldogs Head Coach Sonny Dykes said this past Monday. "They will come into this place and have a ton of confidence.  It is going to be up to us to play well, and if we have a chance to close things out, we have to get better at doing that." The previous week against Kansas looked a lot like the Owls' first win of the previous season against Purdue University. After junior Chris Boswell's field goal and three straight turnovers, the Owls seemed like they were going to struggle during the game, giving up 10 points to the Jayhawks in a matter of minutes. A long drive to start the second quarter put the Owls within striking distance again, leaving the score at 17-13 headed into the half. In the winding minutes of the fourth quarter, down 24-16, junior quarterback Taylor McHargue faced a must-score drive. He led the team down the field on a seven-play, 93-yard drive bringing the Owls within two. They missed the extra point, leaving Kansas with the ball with a little under five minutes left. An interception by sophomore defensive back Bryce Callahan, his second of the game, earned the Owls the ball back with a little over three minutes left. "To know we have a kicker like Chris Boswell, we knew we just needed to get to that 40-yard line."  Head Coach David Bailiff said. "We thought if we could get to the 40 without the wind, we would be good. We knew if we could get to the 40 with the wind, he is pretty automatic from that range. So we felt good when we got the ball to the 40. We were trying to just get extra yards and burn clock."   The Owls did just that, setting Boswell up with a 45-yard field goal. Despite being iced by the Kansas coaches twice, Boswell nailed the field goal and gave the Owls the win. It was their first road victory since a win in against the University of North Texas in 2010. "You feel really good about the progress. You're excited, and then you put that Louisiana Tech video on," Bailiff said. "They look so similar to U of H a year ago. Their quarterback, Cameron, just runs that offense so efficiently. You know they've got a massive offensive line. They run the ball for over 200 yards. I mean it was a great offensive performance. They're a good, good football team." The previous week against Houston, Louisiana Tech totaled 598 yards on 93 plays, including over 200 yards from their two freshman running backs. Their defense struggled to contain Houston, but it will be hard for the Owls' offense to outscore the Bulldogs in a pure shootout. The Owls' defense will have to continue to develop, but the younger players have really solidified the backfield, giving the Owls big play potential. Junior Cameron Nwosu, who had seven tackles against Kansas, is continuing to shut down the running game up the middle. On the offensive side of the ball, turnovers remained a problem against Kansas, but it was hard not to feel good about the Owls in the closing minutes. Despite throwing an interception, McHargue still had 236 passing yards, in addition to 37 yards on the ground. Junior Charles Ross and senior Turner Petersen both had a pair of touchdowns, with Ross having an impressive 6.7 yards per touch. Special teams continued to be the Owls' strength, capped off by Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Week Boswell. Anytime the Owls can get big plays out of this unit it will greatly improve their chances of wnning games.  If the Owls can win this week against the Bulldogs, the 2-1 start will be impressive for the team heading into a weaker C-USA than it saw last season. With the only remaining (and very winnable) non-conference game against University of Texas at El Paso, the Owls can put themselves in the best position for a bowl game in  years.

SPORTS 9/13/12 7:00pm

Soccer freshmen score

With Conference USA play slowly approaching, the Rice University women's soccer team has a total record of two wins, four losses and one tie. So far this season, it has been the youth of the soccer team leading the charge and performing well in games. This has proved crucial to the team's overall success because last year's team leader in points and shots, junior Jessica Howard, is out due to injury. "Howard's phenomenal play last season led to so many attacking opportunities." Head Coach Nicky Adams said, "With Howard out, some key players stepped up and help contribute in Jessica's absence." This year's soccer team welcomes seven freshmen, highlighted by Holly Hargreaves and Lauren Hughes. Sophomore goalkeeper Amy Czyz has also played extremely well, proving that the younger members on the team have stepped up and cemented their roles on the team. In the first game of the season against Baylor University, Czyz defended the Rice goal well, posting a career-high of eight saves. Though she performed well, the Baylor offense had an advantage over the Owls with 24 shots to eight. Hargreaves led the Rice offense with three shots. Hargreaves improved on her performance in the second game against Louisiana State University, scoring her first career collegiate goal from 35 yards out to give Rice a 1-0 lead. Czyz had yet another career game, helping her team with 11 saves for a new career high. The game went into two overtimes after LSU tied the game in the 74th minute. The game resulted in a 1-1 tie with no team scoring during the overtime periods.The freshmen on the team again showed their prowess as Hargreaves and Hughes both scored goals against McNeese State University for the team's first victory of the season. In a loss to Texas Christian University in which Hargreaves led the team with five shots; Hughes followed with four attempts. Another freshman, Jasmine Isokpunwu, had three shots and the Rice Owls won against Texas State University 2-1. In this game, Hargreaves and Hughes again both had goals as two other freshmen, Danielle Spriggs and Isokpunwu, were also in the starting lineup aiding the cause. Although the team went on to lose two games against Stephen F. Austin University and Okla-homa State University, the Rice women's soccer team looks to be headed towards C-USA competition in good shape. The games that have been played so far have displayed the youthful movement on the team. While Czyz defends the goal, the freshmen duo of Holly Hargreaves and Hughes lead the offense. Their performances show how promising the future looks for the Owls. "The transition to the college level of competition has been smooth," Hargreaves said. "Though the practices have been difficult and intense. It is a very different atmosphere than anywhere else. It is truly a privilege to be a part of Rice soccer." She attributes her performance in games to both the team and the coaching staff. "We work together on everything as a unit," Hargreaves said. "If we are successful it is because of everyone as a whole. It's really an amazing thing to be a part of." Hargreaves also made a point to praise the other years on the team. "There is a lot of talent with every class as well," Hargeaves said. "I think we can truly accomplish whatever we, as a team, set our minds to do." Adams also spoke glowingly about the freshmen class. "Our freshmen class as a whole is a tremendous class and every player has contributed significantly," Adams said. "Each of them is competitive and driven and wants to win. It is very contagious." Adams spoke about how Hargreaves and Hughes have stepped up to score goals. She continued to rave about other freshmen, including the versatile Danielle Spriggs. Other freshmen who have impacted the team and have made their mark include Becca Koval, Jasmine Isokpunwu, Kara Dugall, and Caroline Scruggs. As the team enters C-USA play soon, Adams mentioned the competitive schedule the soccer team has played so far this season. "We play a challenging non-conference schedule to prepare us for conference play," Adams said. She pointed out tough games with nationally ranked the University of Memphis and University of Central Florida. "We have a number of home games left in the season, and we would love to have a big student turn out," Adams said.

SPORTS 9/13/12 7:00pm

Center Omar Oraby leaves Rice for USC

Last Thursday, junior center Omar Oraby requested and received his release to transfer to another school. After a brief period of speculation over his potential destination, Jeff Goodman of CBS Sports reported Wednesday that Oraby would be attending the University of Southern California for the upcoming school year. Oraby enrolled in classes today, the university-wide deadline to begin the fall semester, and will begin classes Monday. "I want to thank Omar for his contributions to Rice basketball over the past two years," Braun said. "I want to wish him the very best in his future endeavors." The 7-foot-2-inch Oraby blocked a schoolrecord 54 shots last season, despite playing 11.6 minutes per game. Perhaps more importantly, his inside presence allowed for senior forward Arsalan Kazemi to operate more on the perimeter, helping lead to his career-high 59.4 percent clip from the field. Oraby averaged 6.0 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game, shooting a team-high 62.9 percent from the field. Oraby also flashed growth as the season progressed, and averaged slightly over 16 minutes per game after a breakout performance in which he put up 16 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks on 8-10 shooting in a narrow loss to Marshall. Oraby is the fifth Rice player to depart since the end of last season along with then-freshmen Dylan Ennis, Jarelle Reischel and Ahmad Ibrahim, and David Chadwick, a sophomore at his time of transfer. However, the reasons given by the departures differed, as Ibrahim left to play professional basketball in his home country of Lebanon, Chadwick cited a lack of playing time as his primary reason for transferring and Reischel and Ennis stated that they wished to be closer to their homes. Oraby, who was reportedly also considering the University of California, Los Angeles, Ohio State University and the University of Rhode Island, was seen on the USC campus Wednesday when the news broke. According to ESPN, USC also reportedly plans to submit a hardship waiver to the NCAA for Oraby to be eligible to play this season. If the waiver is not granted, he will have to sit out the season before resuming playing next season with two years of eligibility remaining. Oraby's transfer also comes on the heels of the departure of assistant coach Marco Morcos last spring. Morcos had played a role in recruiting during his time at Rice, and was a key figure in the signing of Oraby prior to last season.

SPORTS 9/13/12 7:00pm

The Fifth Lap

This Rice University Owls football team believed. That might be the most gratifying part of last week's 25-24 Rice victory over the University of Kansas. Even though there were plenty of reasons not to, this team traveled to Lawrence believing it could win. Ten-game losing streak? Didn't matter. Never having won against a Big 12 opponent? Didn't matter. A frustrating loss against University of California, Los Angeles (who, on a side note, is looking like a better and better team)? Didn't matter. You could tell before they even got on their buses for the airport that Coach David Bailiff's squad was carrying a certain swagger. Leading up to the game, players were out encouraging students to watch the televised game. That's not something you do if you don't believe you can compete. It's one thing, though, to take that swagger on the bus, and another to maintain it through the ups and downs of a game. And during the sixty minutes in Lawrence, there were plenty of moments where it would have been easy for Rice to let that belief, that swagger, slip away. Thanks to three first quarter turnovers, Rice squandered opportunities to take command of the game early and instead found themselves down 3-10. Still, the swagger remained. At the start of the second half, Kansas put together a long drive to go up 24-13. Still, Rice kept coming.And with less than five minutes left in the contest, Rice missed a potentially game-tying 2-point conversion attempt. But still, the belief persisted. The defense came up with a huge turnover, thanks to sophomore Bryce Callahan's second interception of the game. The offense converted on a critical fourth down in the process of getting into field goal range. And junior Chris Boswell split the uprights for the game winner. Rice never led until the end of the game. But they never stopped believing that they could. There were a lot of football-specific reasons to be excited about this game. The defense prevented the big plays that plagued them over and over again against UCLA. In the Kansas game, they didn't allow a single play over 30 yards. In the season opener, they gave up multiple plays over 70. The offensive line was more cohesive, giving up only two sacks this week, compared to six against UCLA, allowing quarterback junior Taylor McHargue to look downfield. Sophomore Jordan Taylor continued to emerge as a go-to receiver. He had nine catches for 101 yards, the first time he crossed the century mark in his career, and hauled in many of them in big time situations.The tight ends were active in both the running game and passing game, making important receptions and executing key blocks. The offense, as a unit, showed it can march the ball down the field. Its two touchdown drives were of 94 yards and 93 yards respectively. It also put together four drives of 10 plays or more. And Chris Boswell proved that he's not only long-range kicker, but a clutch kicker as well. Where his Kansas counterpart missed two field goals, Boswell went 4 for 4 including the pressure-packed game winner. All of these things bode well for the rest of Rice's season. But more than anything else, I'm excited for a team that dared to get a historic win, and a program that has now beaten a BCSconference opponent two years in a row. After the UCLA game, many fans walked away shaking their heads, saying it was classic Rice football to make it look like it might be close just to find a way to give the game away. But for a week and a half leading up to the Kansas game, and for sixty at-times-trying minutes during it, this Rice football team refused to give into that attitude. They kept believing they could win. And now they've given us a reason to as well.

SPORTS 9/6/12 7:00pm

Football hopes to learn from loss

Any time anyone mentions University of Kansas football this year, there is only one name that really gets mentioned - new Head Coach Charlie Weis - in his first head coaching job since the debacle at Notre Dame University. For a man who has Super Bowl rings, Lawrence may seem like an odd place to end up, but few doubt Weis's ability to create explosive offenses.That ability to build an offense is just what the Jayhawks need after a miserable 2011 season, going 2-10 and losing every single game inside the Big 12. Despite one of the most difficult schedules of any team in the nation, that record did not cut it at Kansas, an athletic program with a tradition of winning. Coming off a streaky performance against the University of California, Los Angeles, the previous week, expect the Owls to understand the stakes in this game against an automatic BCS-qualifying opponent.If this team is going to be in competition for a bowl game in the latter half of this season, they have to win some of these non-conference games. Much like the Purdue University primetime game last season, this is the Owls' chance to defeat a reputable opponent. "We're gonna take this video, we're gonna learn from it, and we're gonna get better. And we're gonna get to Kansas and play a heck of a football game," Head Coach David Bailiff said. "I thought Kansas looked extremely solid against South Dakota State University. They created five takeaways defensively. They were very solid offensively. It'll be a challenge - but we're looking forward to getting on the road and getting to play." Rice started out terribly the previous week, with seemingly everything going wrong to start against UCLA. However, led by the strong firsthalf performance of junior quarterback Taylor McHargue, Rice managed to claw its way back into the game, going into the locker room only down 11. UCLA shut down the Owls offensively in the second half, eventually winning the game 49-24. On the bright side was the play of junior linebacker Cameron Nwosu, who blocked three extra point attempts and tied a Football Bowl Subdivision record. He was later named Conference-USA Special Teams player of the week. "As an offense, I think we've just got to keep going, be a little bit more aggressive at the beginning," senior tight end and punter Taylor Cook said. "I think this week you'll see a few changes and see our aggressiveness as we step up and get after Kansas." The previous week against South Dakota State, Kansas performed well - especially on the ground - racking up 263 total rushing yards. Tony Pierson, their sophomore running back, racked up 124 of these yards with two touchdowns. The defensive backfield for Kansas had a big game, picking off four passes and holding South Dakota State to 207 yards. Rice's key to the game will be not allowing the bigger Kansas team to physically push them around and opening up holes for the Rice running game to continue to develop. If Rice plays up to its potential, this could be a real opportunity for the team to build some confidence in a part of the season with which they have historically struggled.

SPORTS 9/6/12 7:00pm

Volleyball downs Sam Houston, heads to Ole Miss

Last Friday, Rice University's volleyball team took on Louisiana State University at the Tiger Classic Invitational that was moved from Baton Rouge to Rice due to complications stemming from Hurricane Isaac hitting the Gulf Coast. "Playing these matches is the most important thing, and the fact that we could host the event is amazing," Head Coach Genny Volpe said. "I cannot thank the people in the athletic department enough, mainly the facilities crew for helping make this happen. With football's home opener, they have been working so hard to prepare for that. So, their cooperation is very much appreciated. I'm so happy the other schools could work it out and make it down to Houston." Rice played LSU at 10 a.m. on Friday and later went on to play Purdue University at 5 p.m. in Fox Gym. Purdue, currently ranked at an impressive No. 7 in the nation, served as a formidable opponent for the Owls. Volpe made it clear prior to the start of the invitational that the focus would first be directed toward LSU. "By playing the four matches we have played so far, we have learned a lot about ourselves," Volpe said. "We have learned that we have moments of top-25 performances, and then lose our focus at times during the match." The Owls lost to LSU 3-0. The game against Purdue was close but the Owls trailed 3-2 by the end. Despite Purdue's national standing, Rice held its own and proved itself a formidable opponent. Strong performances in this game came from seniors Nancy Cole and Laurie McNamara, juniors Mariah Riddlesprigger and Megan Murphy, and sophomores Jillian Humphrey, Daniela Arenas and Lizzy Bache.Cole, who is well on her way to reaching a 1,000-kill milestone, added excitement to the game as she led the team with 15 kills, leaving her 46 kills away from her goal. Murphy contributed 50 assists, which marked the first over-50 assist game for Rice in this season. This achievement by Murphy was no doubt the reason she was named to the All-Tournament team. Humphrey also set a season-high with 14 kills. The final match of the Invitational was against Washington University, and the Owls lost 3-0. "The team definitely feels like we can compete with the best in the country," Volpe said. "After the LSU loss, I challenged the team and some particular players to step up, and they did. Both matches against No. 7 Purdue and No. 12 Washington were eye openers, that we are able to compete at that level. We just need to learn how to sustain a high level of play throughout an entire match." The Owls later rebounded on Tuesday to beat Sam Houston State University 3-0. "I thought the team played relatively average, but still won in three straight sets," Volpe said about the victory. "That just tells me what we are capable of. Nancy Cole continues to shine and lead our offensive charge, and she did that against Sam Houston. Liz Bache is also improving and had a good solid match as well." Rice will travel to compete in Oxford, Miss. at the Magnolia Invitational hosted by The University of Mississippi. Rice will face off against The University of North Dakota on the first day of the invitational at 10 a.m. and Ole Miss later that night at 7 p.m. The final game of the Owls' weekend is tomorrow against Alabama A&M University at 10:30 a.m. For Nancy Cole, it is highly plausible that she will reach her collegiate career milestone this weekend at the Ole Miss Tournament. Currently, she is 21 kills away from that goal. "It is definitely a milestone that should be recognized by all, and I think it also shows how much of an impact she has had since her freshman year." Volpe said, "Not many players reach that number, and she is proving each and every day she is an elite player, amongst the best in the country." According to Volpe, fans should also expect to see considerable improvement in both serving and attention to detail. If these adjustments stick, the team could be primed for a hot streak beginning this weekend.

SPORTS 9/6/12 7:00pm

Men's XC takes their mark

The Rice University men's cross country team is back this year with seasoned fifthyear program veterans and a large contingent of lowerclassmen. The men open their season at home next Friday, Sept. 14, at the Rice Invitational, but their sights are set for the C-USA championships and NCAA South Central Regional championships on Oct. 29 and Nov. 9, respectively. The Owls lost only one man from last year's roster, Michael Trejo (Sid Richardson '12), who led the team to a fourth-place finish at the C-USA championships last year. This year the men will look to veterans fifthyear senior Gabe Cuadra and Jones Business School Masters of Business Administration candidate Matthew Carey (McMurtry '12) to lead the Owls to a successful season. Though Cuadra's cross country season last year was hampered by injuries, his third place finish in the 10,000 meter run at the C-USA outdoor track championships in the spring proved he was back in racing form. Carey had a strong showing at the end of last fall when he placed 32nd at the NCAA regional championships, leading the team to a sixth place overall finish. The apartment-mates and training partners have pounded the streets of Houston this summer, running upwards of 90 to 100 miles per week."If we stay relatively healthy, this can be a special season for us," Cuadra said. "We have a mix between an older group of guys that are really hungry and a younger group of guys that are really starting to see how good they are and how good they can be." Rounding out the trio of senior leadership is civil engineering graduate student James Llamas (Jones '12). The young team returns junior John Cavallo and talented sophomore William Firth, both of whom earned points during the CUSA and NCAA regional championships. "Both John Cavallo and Will Firth had really good summers and are in great shape for the season," Carey said. "They were huge last year and I think they'll contribute even more to our success this year." In the past, the Owls have had decent showings at the conference and regional championship meets, usually placing in the middle of the overall team rankings. This year, however, the Owls have high expectations, which includes making a bid for the NCAA national championship.With six of the top seven runners returning from last year, including juniors Wyatt Doop and Travis Roberts, Carey believes this is one of the strongest teams the program has seen in a while. "It's safe to say our goal is to earn an atlarge slot for nationals after upsetting one or more of the top four teams in the South Central Region: UT, A&M, Arkansas, or Lamar," Cavallo said. Unlike other fall season athletes, such as football and soccer players, cross country harriers have no pre-season practices and thus are accountable for their own summer training. Interval workouts and 15 mile runs at the beginning of the school year become the true tests of summer mileage and so far, every returning runner seems to have pushed themselves, Cavallo said. Though most of the freshmen are taking a redshirt season and are not listed on the official roster, their ethic at the six a.m. practices creates a competitive yet supportive team dynamic. The younger talent keeps the upperclassmen on their toes and the limited number of spots on the traveling team will be hotly contested, Cavallo said. Nonetheless, the men who are assured to run in uniform welcome the friendly internal competition. "It's a team that you look forward to working and training with every day," Cuadra said. "And hopefully that dynamic will help us maximize our potential on race day."