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.
By glancing at every statistic besides the final score, the casual sports fan would have guessed that the soccer team had walked away from their season-opening match with Texas Tech University (2-0-0) with their first win of the year. The Owls led the Red Raiders in every offensive category from shots, shots on goal, to corner kicks. But the only statistic that mattered at the end of the night was the one beneath the words "Texas Tech" and the zero beneath "Rice" on the scoreboard at the John Walker Soccer Complex. Rice had the upper hand for the first half, outshooting Tech 5-4 and earning four corner kicks compared to the Red Raiders' two.However, a counterattack in the 64th minute proved to be the Owls' downfall as a failed offensive possession left Rice out of possession to defend against quickly advancing Texas Tech midfielders, who fired two shots on goal against freshman goalkeeper Amy Czyz. Czyz deflected the first shot, but Tech midfielder Tiffini Smith took control and fired the ball into the back of the goal for the only score of the match. Senior forward Hope Ward led the Owls with two shots on goal, while fielder Gabriela Iribarne and forward Ashton Geissendorf contributed one shot on goal each. "Overall, we played well. But Texas Tech took advantage of a mistake," said Head Coach Nicky Adams. "We had a mistake after one of our own restarts, and it ended up costing us the game."If the first half of their match against McNeese State University (0-2-0) on August 21 was any indication, the Owls appeared to have an emotional hangover from the defeat at the hands of Texas Tech. Despite tallying 14 shots in the first half, the Owls failed to put one across the goal line and remained knotted at zero with the Cowgirls heading into the locker room. Whatever was said in the locker room seemed to do the trick for Rice, as senior defender Amy Beger rocketed a long-range shot past McNeese State goalkeeper Katie Seeber just 11 minutes into the start of the second half. Beger talked about freshman Lauren Busansksy's effort in setting up the highlight-reel goal. "There were a bunch of girls heading right for [Busansky]," Beger recounted. "Buzz just played it back to me and I saw a gap. I was sure I could get it to the corner (of the goal)." Adams added her own take on Busansky's overall match performance. "One person I was really proud of was Lauren Busansky," Adams said. "Today we put her in a role that she hadn't trained for and she did a magnificent job. She completed that first pass and it calmed us down. Lauren did what she was asked, and did it well, and as coaches that really gets our attention." With Czyz and the defense holding the Cowgirl attack at bay, senior forward Annie Kadota added a second score 78 minutes into the match off a pass from senior defender Nikki Storness. Junior forward Alex Burton contributed an insurance goal off a rebound in the 86th minute to bring the game to its final score of 3-0. Adams spoke about her strategy in motivating the Owls at halftime. "We were taking too many touches in the first half," said Adams. "Too many touches ended up slowing us down. It was something we addressed at halftime, that we need to increase our speed of play." Rice heads north to Fort Worth to take on Texas Christian University (1-1-0) tonight at 7 p.m. The Horned Frogs lost their season opener to Oklahoma State University by a score of 1-0, but defeated Lamar University 2-0 on Sunday.
The 66th-ranked Owls had little hope of making the NCAA Tournament via an at-large invite, so the Conference USA Championship would be their only avenue for furthering their season. Given a fourth seed, the women's tennis team enjoyed a first round bye before taking on the University of Central Florida (12-8), the host school. The fifth seeded Knights could not keep up with Rice's well-tuned doubles pairs as sophomore Daniella Trigo and senior Jessica Jackson started off the competition with an 8-3 victory. Senior Rebekka Hanle and junior Ana Guzman finished their match next by a score of 8-4 to give Rice the doubles point. Jackson and Guzman increased the Owls' lead to 3-0 before freshman Dominique Harmath finished of UCF's Alexis Rodriguez in two quick sets to clinch the victory for Rice. All in all, it was a perfect match for the Owls, who failed to drop a set during the entire quarterfinal matchup.
With the Conference USA Outdoor Championship being held at Rice Track/Holloway Field this past weekend, the men's track team aimed to use this home field advantage to help propel them to a top-three finish at the C-USA Outdoor Championship for the first time since 2008. But the perfect weather and familiar surroundings couldn't give the Owls the 30 extra points needed to surpass the University of Tulsa, as Rice finished fourth for the third straight year. As always, the Owls had strong showings in the decathlon and distance events, but had a few surprises including the shot put and 4x400 meter relay results.
Despite being one of the top groups on the men's track team last year, this year has been somewhat trying for the pole vaulters, save for Saturday's efforts by freshman Ben Timmer and senior Garrett Stafford, who had their best vaults of the year at the University of Texas-El Paso Invitational. Timmer, who had not cleared the bar in one outdoor meet this season, came through with a fifth-place finish after vaulting 4.66 meters (15' 3.5"), and Stafford turned in a solid performance as well with a 4.51 meter (14' 9.5") vault that gave him sixth place. Head Coach Jon Warren (Jones '88) spoke about the meet from the vaulters' standpoint.
In a season that has seen a variety of up-and-down performances over the last month and a half, the women's tennis team saved their best victory for last, defeating the University of Louisville (11-10) by a margin of 7-0, winning all matches in the process. Seniors Rebekka Hanle and Jessica Jackson combined to have a hand in two double matches and two singles matches victories, as Hanle and junior Ana Guzman won their match 8-5, while Jackson and sophomore Daniella Trigo won 8-4. The other doubles contest saw junior Alex Rasch and freshman Dominique Harmath cruise to an 8-1 win. With the doubles point in hand, the No. 65 Owls (13-9) lost no time in clinching the match, as Rasch won her match in a quick two sets, losing just four games. Harmath and Jackson followed suit, claiming two-set victories to give Rice a 4-0 advantage over the Cardinals. Freshman Kim Anicete reeled in her team-leading 16th victory of the year, while Guzman and Hanle finished up their matches in three and two sets, respectively. Hanle was fittingly the last Owl to walk off the court, having been the squad's top-seeded player and de facto team leader for this season. Jackson and fellow senior Varsha Shiva-Shankar also left Jake Hess Tennis Stadium for the last time in their careers, having been honored with Hanle before the start of the match. But the story hasn't ended yet for them, as Rice will be seeded fourth for the Conference USA Tennis Championship that started yesterday at the University of Central Florida. Rice will face the winner of the match between fifth-seeded University of Central Florida (11-7) and the 12th-seeded University of Alabama-Birmingham (7-12) at 2 p.m. today.
Before the interview even started, Head Coach Jon Warren (Jones '88) stated, "Let's talk about [the] UTEP [Invitational]." Clearly Warren's directive nature was not coming from a disappointment at the way the men's track team had performed at the 84th Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays in Austin and Trinity University's Tiger Relays in San Antonio, but rather because there were just 14 Owls spread among the two meets. Still, junior Lee Johnson's performances in the 110 and 400 meter hurdles at the Tiger Relays were something to talk about. Johnson took first place in the 110 meter hurdles with a season-best time of 14.95 seconds, currently the eighth-best time by any Conference USA runner. Additionally, Johnson's time of 55.89 seconds was good for second place in the 400 meter hurdles. Warren was pleased at the way several different athletes have stepped up each weekend.