In a hot and humid Saturday afternoon game, the Southern Miss soccer team lost to Rice (5-5-2, 3-2) with a 3-0 shutout to bring the Eagles’ record to 6-5-2 (0-3-2 in conference).
Before the end of the first period the Rice Owls got off 11 shots and scored two early goals. Rice’s junior midfielder Gabriela Iribarne scored the first goal off an assist by Lauren Hughes in the 15th minute, and in the 18th minute, forward Holly Hargreaves scored on a penalty kick.
Going into the second period trailing 2-0, the Golden Eagles fought back by setting up several chances to score. USM matched Rice’s performance with seven second-period shots and Danica Roberts had an opportunity to score on a penalty kick with three minutes left to play.
However, Southern Miss could not produce on these opportunities.
“We got unlucky with the penalty kick in the first half and unlucky in the second half when we had our penalty kick,” senior Chelsea Cruthirds said after the game. “We unfortunately missed it. We got some good chances. And moving forward, we have got to look forward to next weekend and put those chances away so that we can get up there in the top of the conference.”
After yielding one more goal late in the game to Rice’s Quinny Truong, time expired and the Owls left Hattiesburg, Miss., with a conference win.
“It was a good fight, and Rice was a good team,” Cruthirds said. “We came out a little slow at the very beginning but we picked it up. I thought we played well. It took us a little while to get into the groove of things but eventually we settled down.”
The Southern Miss soccer team has never defeated Rice, and the Oct. 12 game made USM’s overall series against the Owls 0-8. Despite the loss, first-year head coach Mohammed El-Zare was pleased with his team’s performance and teamwork.
“I am proud of the way we played today,” El-Zare said. “In the second half, particularly, we did a good job of limiting their chances and getting forward to create our own opportunities. What it came down to was they converted their chances and we were not able to.”
Aside from Roberts’ penalty kick, the Golden Eagles made 11 shots, only four of which were on goal. The Owls’ defense blocked two shots and their junior goalkeeper Amy Czyz recorded five saves.
“I think that it was a tough game (and) it was a hard team,” said freshman goalkeeper Brittany Taylor. “We did have possession for most of the time and it was unfortunate we weren’t able to finish opportunities, but I think if we just keep working for it, and just keep playing our game, I think we can develop into the team I know we are.”
Entering that game, Taylor (3-5-4) led Conference-USA in both total saves (66) and in save percentage (.880). Against Rice she recorded nine saves and three goals against, including the penalty kick by Hargreaves.
“I am so proud of the effort and the fighting spirit we showed (Saturday),” El-Zare said. “We continue to play as a team and play as hard as we can. We are going to get some positive results because of this. I have 100 percent confidence.
“Failure is an avenue toward success. I believe we will rise up. We are nearing success. If we continue to work and play like this, good results will come our way.”
With only five games left in the season, the Golden Eagles will try to earn their first conference win in San Antonio against UTSA on Friday, Oct. 18. The Eagles will face Louisiana Tech Sunday, Oct. 20.