Women's soccer seeks bid to nationals
by Paul Aronson
The women's club soccer team turned in its best performance of the season Sunday to score a 2-2 tie against archrival Texas A&M University in College Station.
The Owls left early this morning to play in the regional tournament in Lubbock. Two bids to the national tournament of the National Intramural-Recreational Sport Association (NIRSA) are on the line.
If the Owls earn a bid, it will be their second straight trip to the national tournament, which will be held in Austin. Rice's competition will include the Aggies as well as Texas Tech University, which handed Rice its only loss of the season. Rice finished with a 6-1-1 record in the Lone Star Division of the Texas Collegiate Soccer League, good for third place behind Texas A&M (7-0-1) and Texas Tech (7-1-0).
In Lubbock, the Owls may have to face the Aggies in a situation that could give the winner a bid to nationals and leave the losing team at home. But the Owls think winning was within their grasp last weekend and believe they can win a rematch.
"There was more intensity from both sides than in any other game this year," sophomore striker Natalie Nardecchia said. "We definitely could have beaten them this weekend."
There was a feverish pace to the game from the outset. Although the Aggies threatened first, the Owl defense was able to withstand the attack. Junior striker Lindsay Botsford then created the Owls' first scoring opportunity. She ripped a shot that was deflected by the Aggie goalkeeper and then tucked into the top corner by Nardecchia. It was the game's first goal and Rice's only lead of the afternoon.
The first half ended with the score still 1-0. Coming out of halftime, however, the Owls found themselves immediately on their heels in the face of an aggressive Aggie attack.
"We could tell they were really fired up coming into the second half," senior goalkeeper Sarah Morgan said. Eventually the Aggies broke through, scoring off a deflected corner kick to tie the game. The Owls were unable to turn back the momentum, and the Aggies scored again on a header off another corner kick to take the 2-1 lead.
The Owls proved resilient and scored the equalizing goal with 15 minutes remaining. On a corner kick, Nardecchia passed to senior defender Clara Filice. From 30 yards out, Filice lofted a shot beyond the reach of the Aggie goalkeeper.
"It was an unbelievable, beautiful, impossible-to-stop shot into the upper corner of the goal," Morgan said.
Texas A&M was Rice's stiffest competition this season, and the team was pleased with its overall effort but not necessarily with the outcome.
"We really wanted to win, particularly the seniors, since we have never beaten them," Morgan said. "It was our best effort of the year and one that could have been enough with a few lucky bounces."
The Owls hope their experience against stiff competition will have prepared them for this weekend.
"If we play like we are capable of, we will make our second straight trip to the national tournament," Nardecchia said.
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