2019 was an incredible year for Rice Athletics. It’s hard to boil down the success into a single list, but here are some of the most impactful moments of the year.
10. Baseball run-rules TCU at Shriner’s College Classic
Baseball’s first season under Matt Bragga was filled with ups and downs. The absolute shellacking the Owls’ laid on TCU at Minute Maid Park stands out as a high point. A perennial Omaha-bound squad, TCU looked stunned when the Rice exploded for nine runs in the final two innings. Cade Edwards blasted a dagger into the Crawford Boxes, ending the game in seven innings.
9. Football signs 17 in early signing period
The Owls haven’t had a top-five class in Conference USA since 2013, but are well on their way with the first installments of the 2020 Rice Football recruiting class. Rice entered the early signing period in the top four classes in the conference and has a few more weeks to add to the total. Dynamic athletes like Sean Fresch, Andrew Mason, Plae Wyatt and Mike Leone are going to help raise the floor, and the ceiling, for this program.
8. Soccer goes 6-3-1 in C-USA play
The first year under a new head coach is filled with uncertainty, but Rice soccer and Brian Lee had a tremendous 2019 season. Rice won 10 games for the fifth time in six years and lost just one conference game, a feat the program achieved only one other time this decade.
7. Blaze Alldredge named first-team All-Conference USA
From junior college to the top of Conference USA, Blaze Alldredge’s story is incredible. He was the leader of a Rice defense that went from one of the conference’s worst to one of its’ best and is expected to return Alldredge and the majority of its key contributors in 2020. Neither Alldredge or this defense will fly under the radar next year.
6. Anthony Rendon wins World Series
In a moment bittersweet for native Houstonians, former Rice baseball great Anthony Rendon won the World Series in his hometown. The Washington Nationals’ third baseman had eight hits in the series, including a pair of game-changing home runs. He celebrated by signing a 7-year, $245 million contract with the Los Angels Angels during the offseason.
5. Women’s basketball makes NCAA Tournament
Rice Women’s basketball looked every bit the part in their first NCAA Tournament appearance of the decade. The Owls pushed Marquette to the wire, faltering late. The duo of Erica Ogwumike and Nancy Mulkey gave opponents nightmares and both are back for another shot in 2020.
4. Volleyball upsets No. 3 Texas
Rice volleyball delivered their biggest win in program history in front of a record crowd at Tudor Fieldhouse. It took five all five sets, but the home team delivered an upset for the ages, downing then-No. 3 Texas before celebrations broke out all over the arena. It’s hard to find an individual win more impressive than this one across all of Rice Athletics in 2019.
3. Women’s Basketball and Volleyball ranked for the first time ever
The upswing in Rice Athletics could be encapsulated in the first-time rankings of the women’s basketball and volleyball programs. Both teams had stellar seasons that warranted national attention. Not only did they both receive those honors, but they changed the perception of Rice on the national stage. Rice is no longer just any other school, it’s an elite institution with high-caliber athletes that can win big.
2. Football closes with three straight wins
There were rumblings of improvement, but an 0-9 start had Rice football in a tough spot. They knew they needed to start winning — and they’d come close several times — but getting over the hump proved to be a tougher task than expected. Once Rice got the taste of victory, they didn’t look back. The football team closed the year with three straight wins, the first time Rice has ended the year that well since 2013 when they won the conference title.
1. Women’s Basketball goes undefeated C-USA
No matter the sport or the conference, going undefeated is really hard to do. Rice women’s basketball did just that, blowing out the majority of their conference opponents in dazzling fashion on their way to a conference championship. Including the conference tournament, the Owls went a perfect 19-0 against Conference opponents.
How about you? Which of these moments did you enjoy the most? Which events should be added to the list?