Rice soccer clinched the 2021 Conference USA West division title on Thursday, defeating UTEP at Holloway Field.
Picked to finish second in the preseason polls, Rice soccer one-upped those early expectations in the 2021 spring season. The Owls lost their conference home opener to North Texas 2-1 before reeling off six consecutive victories, the last five of which came via shutouts. Along the way, they picked up a win over Texas A&M.
On Thursday night the Owls made things official, clinching the divisional title with a win over UTEP. Catarin Alburquerque scored in the seventh minute. Haley Kostyshyn followed soon after with a 14th minute goal. Up 2-0, Rice held that margin for the remainder of the contest, outpacing UTEP in shots (14 to 8) and shots on goal (6 to 2).
With the regular season in the books, Rice soccer finishes the season with a 5-1 record in Conference USA play and a 9-2 record overall. Just this past week, Rice was one place outside of the United Soccer Coaches Poll finishing with 35 votes. It’s very possible Rice enters the Top 25 prior to the conference tournament, slated to be played at Holloway field next week.
As for the rest of the C-USA field, North Texas, which has one game remaining, can’t catch the Owls’ in the standings. No matter how the Mean Green fair in their finale, Rice will have the top seed heading into the conference tournament. The Owls fell to North Texas in Denton in the most recent tournament. The opportunity to return the favor at home this time should be ample motivation.
The Conference USA Tournament will be played from April 13 to April 17.