CARY, N.C. — The freshman duo of Natalie Gorji and Mikala Furuto combined for three goals in the Rice Soccer team's 3-1 victory over Furman in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament Wednesday afternoon in Cary, North Carolina. With the program's first NCAA Tournament win the No. 22 ranked Owls next advance to face No. 5 seed West Virginia (10-2-1) on Saturday (May 1) at 2 pm (Central Time).
In the program's four previous trips to the NCAA Tournament (2004, 2005, 1014, 2017) Rice had been eliminated in the first round each time. The Owls are advancing for the first time, but playing in the previously uncharted round of 32 was no so far-fetched. Rice entered the match ranked No. 22 in the country in the most recent national coaches' poll. For Wednesday the NCAA assigned the Owls to wear all-white uniforms, which are reserved for the 'home'/higher-seeded first round team.
Rice was applying offensive pressure early, putting together six shots and three corner kicks in the first fifteen minutes of the contest. Unbeaten Furman refused to yield, however, and was the first to open the scoring. In the game's 18th minute Furman's Nieva Gaither slid a pass to charging Kyndal Anderson who found the back of the Owl net for her fourth goal of the year and a 1-0 advantage.
There was still a lot of soccer left to play. Rice was soon threatening again and in the 25th minute senior Caleigh Page made a long throw-in from the left sideline to just outside the corner of the keeper's box. Gorji leaped and head the ball at the target and found the back of the netting for her second goal of the season.
It was 1-1 but the Owls, and Gorji, weren't finished. In the 37th minute, junior Delaney Schultz brought the ball straight toward the goal on the left side, but threaded a pass center and forward to Gorji when Paladin defenders began to shift. From inside the 18 Gorji did not have much time to settle and shoot, but sent a rocket shot in for her second goal of the day and a 2-1 lead.
Rice was in high gear for the second half, and able to add an insurance goal in the 66th minute. This time Schultz found Mikala Furuto in space on the left side. As the Paladin keeper came off her line Furuto chipped a high shot in for her team-leading sixth goal of the season.
All Good Things
With the Furman goal the Owls' and junior goalkeeper Bella Killgore's streak of consecutive minutes came to an end at 833:22. It was the first time a team had scored on Rice dating back to March 15.
News & Notes
Rice is unbeaten in its last ten matches (9-0-1).
In the match the Owls held a 22-6 lead in shots and an 8-0 margin in corner kicks.
Rice became the first C-USA school to advance in the NCAA Tournament since 2011.