Rice soccer has a new head coach with big plans. How Brian Lee’s own expectations hope to drive the Owls’ program to new heights.
One year ago Brian Lee made a career-altering decision. After leading LSU to six NCAA Tournaments and four division titles he decided to accept the Rice soccer head coaching job. Trading the SEC for Conference USA wasn’t solely a leap of faith. Lee describes it as a calculated decision.
“A theory I’ve always had about college women’s soccer is the very best jobs are at the prestigious academic institutions,” he reasoned. “Because of the demographics of our recruiting base and the lack of a professional league of note makes the elite academic schools the ones the kids want to go play at.”
Lee pointed to programs like Georgetown and Stanford. Both are academic powerhouses that have become mainstays at the highest levels of the sport. From admissions requirements to scheduling capabilities, there’s no reason Rice can’t mirror how those programs have been built. At least, that’s the theory.
Lee believed in that premise so much he moved on from a decade-long stint in Baton Rouge to build a new legacy at South Main. The Owls went 10-6-3 in Lee’s first season, losing in the conference tournament to North Texas on their own field after tying the Mean Green in Houston the week prior.
The solid start was achieved, primarily, with players he inherited. The team won’t fully have his imprint for another two seasons. Women’s college soccer typically takes commitments two to three years out from their arrival on campus.
Rice made one new addition to the roster in Lee’s first season, signing Boston College transfer Mijke Roelfsema. She was instrumental to the Owls’ success this season, buying into the program Lee was striving to create.
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More and more of Lee’s handpicked recruits will be added in the seasons to come. Already equipped with what he believes is a talented roster, his own expectations continue to rise. “The program, really over the course of history, has been at the very least, solid,” he said. Lee then went on to issue his own expectation.
“The top end of what we can develop the program into over the next three, four, five years is very high. I think we’re headed to having a Top 20 program.” He knows that’s a tall order, but he also knows how to get there.
In one season, Lee turned a seven-win team into a 10-win team. He’s continuing to recruit and develop talent. As he expected when he took the job, things are headed in the right direction.