After beating Purdue University earlier in the season, it was thought that the stigma when playing against major conference teams had disappeared for the football team. The team was hoping to go 2-0 against Big 10 teams this season – what would surely have been a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing campaign. Northwestern University, a mediocre Big 10 team, had other plans when the Owls traveled to Evanston, Ill. this past weekend.
While the volleyball team has found itself near the top of the conference standings due to their conference record, their subpar overall record has given the other top Conference USA teams reason to doubt the Owls legitimacy. With conference leaders the University of Tulsa (25-5, 16-1 C-USA) and rival Southern Methodist University (13-16, 9-8 C-USA) in town for the last Rice home stand of the season, the seniors had their chance to prove they deserved some recognition in conference. However, the Golden Hurricane swept into Houston and took care of the Owls to end all dreams of winning the conference. The team still sent the seniors off with a bang as they beat SMU for the second consecutive time this season on Senior Day.
After a successful home meet the week prior, the swim team headed north for two consecutive meets against Texas Christian University and the University of North Texas. However, victory was not on Rice's side, as the team fell short in both outings. First, it was the Horned Frogs that claimed a 159-126 non-conference dual meet win over the Owl swimmers on Friday evening in Fort Worth. Although Rice won six of the meet's 16 events overall, TCU won eight swim races and both springboard diving events, as Rice does not have any divers on its roster.
Expectations are higher than they've ever been for the Rice women's basketball team this season. After a surprising 18-13 regular season and a berth in the Women's National Invitational Tournament during the 2010- 2011 campaign, Head Coach Greg Williams (Hanszen '70) finds himself in the unfamiliar position of leading a team that is going to compete for a Conference USA title.
For those searching for a single image to sum up the prospective men's basketball season, the scene in the Trauber Suite at Tudor Fieldhouse on Wednesday, Oct. 26 was an appropriate one. As the players sat at individual tables waiting for one-on-one interviews with the media, five freshmen brought the energy and liveliness to the room. The close-knit group of rookies sat front and center, exchanging laughs and cracking jokes as media members continued to enter the suite. Unlike in years past, it was not the talented group of underclassmen that garnered all of the attention when the cameras and audio recorders were turned on. In the back of the room sat Head Coach Ben Braun's veteran core of juniors and seniors, a group ready to assume expanded leadership roles for a team with postseason aspirations.
Against an opponent such as East Carolina University (2-22, 0-15 C-USA), the Owls knew the only way they could slip up was if they beat themselves. With Tulsa University and Southern Methodist University following the week after, it would have been easy for Rice to look ahead and ignore ECU. However, the Owls did not let such distractions take part as they cruised to a perfect weekend, beating ECU twice.
Like a losing season for the Washington Redskins, the soccer team's elimination by shootout in the Conference USA tournament seemed inevitable. Last year, Southern Methodist University defeated the Owls 4-2 in a shootout after no goals were scored in 110 minutes. This year, Rice escaped a complete scenario of deja vu by beating the Ponies in overtime. But the shootout defeat finally found the Owls in the semifinals of the tournament, this time at the hands of the University of Texas-El Paso.
At the start of the season, it appeared that veteran senior quarterback Nick Fanuzzi was destined to be holding a clipboard on the sideline and watching the Owls' (3-6, 2-4 C-USA) season unfold. After losing his starting position over the summer to sophomore Taylor McHargue, it looked like the University of Alabama transfer was essentially done as an integral player. He proved all of that wrong this past weekend in the homecoming game against the University of Texas at El Paso (4- 5, 1-4 C-USA), which ended with a 41-37 win for the Blue and Gray.
Heading into the game against the nationally ranked and undefeated University of Houston, starting quarterback Taylor McHargue had thrown for eight touchdowns so far this season. Last Thursday night, University of Houston quarterback Case Keenum threw nine touchdowns.
Throughout two days of exciting competition, the Rice women's swim team was able to come through with a third place finish at the first annual Rice-Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Medical Center Fall Invitational held Friday and Saturday on Oct. 28-29. Showing strong efforts across the board, the Owls were able to set several individual records during the meet and proved that they are a force to be reckoned with as the season continues.
The Owls earned their extra miles this week as they flew across three time zones in two days to face off against University of Texas- El Paso and the University of Central Florida on the road. Rice was looking to repeat its sweep of UTEP earlier in the season and wanted to get revenge against UCF for a 3-1 defeat at home on Oct. 14. The Owls could not fare better as again they took care of UTEP on the road, but fell for the second time against the Golden Knights.
While the Conference USA Cross Country championship has been characterized by the expected, 2011 was a different story for Rice, and not for the better. While the women expected to compete for first place and the men expected to finish in second or third, the Owls came away disappointed with their results from Monday's C-USA championship at the Wildcat Golf Club in Houston, Texas.
After a nearly catastrophic meltdown over a six-game stretch which saw it compile a 1-4-1 record and move from third to seventh in the Conference USA standings, the soccer team righted the ship just in time on Friday, as they tied the University of Houston (6-11-2, 3-6-2 C-USA), 1-1. With a tie, the Owls locked up a spot in the conference tournament.
Before Thursday night's game at Robertson Stadium on the campus of the University of Houston, many Owls' fans were taking a page out of Governor Rick Perry's book and praying for a sudden deluge of rain that would surely help ground the Houston air attack. Apparently only part of the prayer was heard as heavy rain lasted for a just a quarter-and so did the Owls' grip on the game, as they ended up losing by a score of 73-34.
Seeking to capitalize on the positive vibes from the Lone Star Invitational, the golf team traveled to Las Cruces, New Mexico for the Herb Wimberly Intercollegiate. Instead of another positive finish, they left New Mexico with a bit ter taste in their mouths from a last-place finish.
After suffering a loss the previous week, the swim team got off to a dominating start against the University of Miami (Fla.) and never looked back. The Owls' swimmers posted a 131-74 dual meet victory over the visiting Hurricanes this past Saturday afternoon at Rice Aquatics Center Competition Pool. It was the tandem of freshman Erin Flanigan and senior Alex O'Brien, who each won two events, that set the pace for Rice, which as a team won even of the meet's 11 events overall.
Yet again, the volleyball team had an up-and-down weekend in more ways than one. The Owls (12-10, 7-4 C-USA) had an irregular home/ road split this weekend as they played at home Friday against the University of Memphis (15-9, 4-7 C-USA) and went on the road Sunday to play the University of Alabama-Birmingham (18-5, 8-3 C-USA). The joy of home on Friday was over whelming for the Owls, but they could not keep the momentum as they left the comfort of the hedges to go to Alabama.
For the second straight week, Rice (2-5, 1-3 C-USA) simply did not look ready to play in the first quarter. In a winnable game, the Owls quickly fell behind – giving the Univer sity of Tulsa (4-3, 3-0 C-USA) momentum, and digging themselves into a pretty deep hole.
If the fans of Owls soccer could take any solace in the team's lackluster performance over the last four games leading up to Oct. 21, it was that the team's final three matches were against three of the five worst teams in Conference USA. Surely this reprieve from the top teams in C-USA would allow Rice to se cure a bid in the postseason conference tour nament and perhaps a top-four seed. But un like conventional wisdom, which would have seen the Owls dominate the first two of those three matches, Rice lost both, first to East Carolina University (9-6-1, 4-5-0 C-USA) by a score of 3-1, and then to Marshall University (4-11-3, 2-6-2 C-USA) in a 1-0 shutout.