Head coach Brian Lee has high expectations for the future of Rice soccer and he’s leaning on those nearby to help him reach those new heights.
The 2019 season was a positive step for Rice soccer. The Owls saw their win total rise from seven to 10 as the team adjusted well to the new leadership of coach Brian Lee. The modest improvement was an encouraging sign, but Lee didn’t sign up for 10 wins. He’s looking to turn Rice into a power on the national stage.
Lee’s strategy is two-fold. Recruit the best players and develop those on campus into the best versions of themselves. “I thought last fall was just fantastic evidence of that,” he said. “A huge percentage of [the players] maximized how good they could be in the short term.”
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Those are the markers Lee uses to gauge where the program is headed. He doesn’t get too caught up in landmarks — win a Conference Title by Year X, win an NCAA Tournament Game by Year Y — instead he focuses on the micro level to influence those macro goals.
“Developmentally we’re seeing kids get better and better every day,” Lee said. Using that as a spring board for the Owls’ next steps.
Lee doesn’t have to look far for examples of recruiting and talent development done well. He cited the recent success of Rice Volleyball under Genny Volpe and Rice Women’s Basketball under Tina Langley. He hopes “to get where volleyball and basketball are on a Conference USA level. And to establish that for 12 months, for 24 months, as the norm.”
Volleyball has been to consecutive NCAA Tournaments. Basketball went to the NCAA’s last year and was on pace to do it again before their season was halted by COVID-19.
That’s a high standard, but Lee sees the success of those programs as proof that it’s more than possible.
“I think this is the best place to be a female student-athlete, or certainly one of the best places,” he said in praise of Rice Unversity. “it’s pretty awesome”
For now, Lee is working to emulate the successes of Volpe and Langley. He’s raising the talent level. He’s equipping the ladies on his roster right now. And most importantly, he’s elevating the brand of a program he believes has all it needs to take soar. In his eyes, there’s no better time to be an Owl than the present.