2021 was filled with highs and lows for Rice Athletics. The Roost picked out 10 moments that stood out the most along the way.
10. Rice Basketball goes on C-USA Tournament run
For the first time since 2007, Rice basketball won multiple games in the Conference USA Tournament. The Owls beat Southern Miss and knocked off Marshall before falling to UAB. After sneaking into the tournament as the sixth seed in the West, Rice put their best foot forward when it counted the most, building momentum as the team heads into the 2021-2022 season.
9. Owls shine at Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics
The realm of collegiate athletics wasn’t the only area where Rice impressed. The Owls also faired well on one of the world’s greatest stages: the Olympics. Ariana Ince competed in the Tokyo Olympics in the javelin throw. Soon after, Ahalya Lettenberger took home a silver medal in the Paralympic Games.
8. Rice Women’s basketball wins WNIT
It feels like forever ago at this point, but Rice Women’s Basketball marched through the WNIT in March, thumping Ole Miss to win the program’s first-ever WNIT Championship. The roster has changed dramatically since then, but the accomplishments of Tina Langley, Nancy Mulkey and Co. will not be forgotten.
7. Rice Football signs another Top 5 recruiting class
Recruiting has been one of the brightest spots for Rice football under head coach Mike Bloomgren and the most recent 2022 recruiting class appears to be no exception. The Owls took home a Top 5 class in Conference USA and the No. 2 rated class in program history. Each of the last three classes currently ranks in the Top 5 highest-rated classes in school history. More recruiting notes here.
6. Grace Forbes wins C-USA Female Track, XC Athlete of the Year
While track and field might not draw the same spotlight as other collegiate sports, it’s hard not to be transfixed by the level of dominance Grace Forbes has displayed in her young Rice career. Forbes was named C-USA Female Track Athlete of the Year and C-USA Cross Country Athlete of the Year. From start to end, she was the best of the best.
5. Rice baseball hires Jose Cruz Jr. as next head coach
Rice elected to make a change at the top of the baseball program following the 2021 season and athletic director Joe Karlgaard made a splash with the hiring of former Rice great Jose Cruz Jr. Cruz has already made notable additions on the transfer front and increased the visibility of the program within the city and on social media. The 2022 season can’t come soon enough.
4. Rice Soccer upsets WVU in NCAA Tournament
Making the NCAA Tournament is an accomplishment. Winning a game is another. Rice soccer went beyond both bars in their spring season, knocking off 5-seed West Virginia in route to the first Sweet 16 appearance by a Conference USA school since 2011 and tying the program record for wins a season with 14.
3. Rice Volleyball makes NCAA Tournament, twice!
Rice arrived in Omaha in mid-April but had their first NCAA Tournament appearance of the year ended by COVID-19 cases within the program. Undeterred, they bounced back and earned another NCAA bid in their traditional fall season. Finally given the opportunity to compete, Rice beat San Diego in the first round before falling to Texas in the second round.
2. Rice football beats UAB
For the second consecutive season, Rice football won a game as a three-touchdown underdog on the road. In 2020, Marshall was the victim a dominant defensive performance by the Owls. This time around, UAB was caught in the crosshairs of what was indisputably the most complete performance by all phases in the 2021 season with team-favorite Wiley Green at the helm.
1. Rice Athletics accepts AAC invite
The giant of conference realignment awoke during the summer when Texas and Oklahoma announced moves to the SEC. That decision sent ripple effects across college athletics all the way to Houston, Tx where Rice Athletics was invited to join the American Athletic Conference. The Owls don’t have a date when the move becomes official yet, but the announcement itself is a massive moment in Rice Athletics history.
How about you? Which of these moments from Rice Athletics did you enjoy the most? Cutting this down to 10 was challenging. Which Rice Athletics events should be added to the list?