Oct. 10, 2013
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - The Southern Miss soccer team wraps its three-game Conference USA home stand Saturday at noon versus Rice. With just three home matches remaining on the 2013 schedule, this will be among the fans' last chances to see the Golden Eagles in Mississippi.
"Rice is a good team that is always competing for a conference title," coach Mohammed El-Zare said. "They will be a tough opponent, but we are preparing for this match like we have every match, one day at a time and one practice at a time. We anticipate a good match."
There will be a special giveaway for this match as the first 100 fans through the gate will receive a free pair of Southern Miss sunglasses.
It will be a match of importance for the Golden Eagles (6-4-4, 0-2-2 Conference USA), who still have designs on a trip to the Conference USA tournament. To earn a berth in the Houston-based event, Southern Miss must place fifth or higher in the C-USA West Division.
Currently, the Golden Eagles sit in eighth place but, with six conference matches remaining, there is still time for upward mobility.
Saturday provides one chance for the Golden Eagles to gain ground in the race for the postseason.
Rice (4-5-2, 2-2 Conference USA) sits in fifth in the West having already defeated UTEP and North Texas in conference play. Last weekend, the Owls downed North Texas 4-0 and dropped a 1-0 decision to Tulsa.
Southern Miss was at home last weekend and fell 1-0 in a hard-fought match against Tulsa before playing Marshall to a 0-0, double-overtime tie. Defensively, the Golden Eagles have allowed just two goals over their past four matches.
"We have been doing a good job defensively in terms of limiting other teams' chances to score," El-Zare said. "This week, we have been focusing on the attacking phase of our game and trying to improve on our ability to convert our strong defensive play into goals. Hopefully that will lead to a good result for us."
Rice has the unusual statistic of having scored the same number of goals, 14, as it has surrendered. Southern Miss, meanwhile, has scored 38 goals while allowing 16.
Golden Eagle senior Danica Roberts remains the top offensive performer in C-USA. She has a conference-best 12 goals and 27 points.
Lauren Hughes has been Rice's top offensive performer. She is tied for fifth in Conference USA in assists (4) and 10th in total points (12). Owls goalie Amy Czyz ranks seventh in total saves (48) and 10th in save percentage (.787).
The Golden Eagles are 0-7 versus Rice and, in last year's match, Rice won 1-0. Southern Miss next travels to UTSA on Oct. 18 for a 7 p.m. C-USA match. On Oct. 20, the Golden Eagles visit Louisiana Tech at 1 p.m. in conference action.
The team returns to Hattiesburg on Oct. 25 and 27 for its final home matches of the year, games against East Carolina and Old Dominion at 3 p.m. and 1 p.m., respectively. The Old Dominion match will be "Senior Day" for the Golden Eagles.
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