Houston defeats Rice at home

In Houston’s last game of the 2008 season on the Cougars’ annual senior night, the soccer team did something it has not done since before the graduating seniors arrived as freshman.

The Cougars defeated inner-city rival Rice for the first time since 2002, downing the Owls 1-0 at Robertson Stadium on Friday.

"Rice is an excellent program, so it’s a great result for us, and it’s a great way to end the season, honor the season, honor the seniors and look forward to next year," head coach Susan Bush said.

Houston (7-9-1, 3-7-1 Conference USA) scored the only goal of the game for both teams in the 13th minute when freshman forward Jessica Zavalza shot the ball into the center of the net off an assist from junior midfielder Kaitlin Thulin.

Houston outshot the Owls (10-8, 6-5 C-USA) 7-5 in the first half, but didn’t score again before the break.

The Cougars finished the game with 15 shots compared to the Owls’ nine. Junior midfielder Christine Nieva came off the bench to lead the Cougars with five shots while Zavalza added three.

Senior goalie Shelby Scott totaled two saves in the first half of play to keep the Cougars ahead and finished the night with three saves, posting her first shutout against the Owls.

"I think we came out really excited about playing them. We played hard. They’re a great program. It rolled our way this time," Scott said.

Scott, who had six shutouts this season, holds the UH records for wins (20), shutouts (14) and saves (302) in 54 games as a Cougar.

"She has played so well and has been so consistent the past three years for us. She’s one of the hardest-working players I’ve ever had. She came up with saves every game she wasn’t supposed to make," Bush said. "She grew up a lot as a player, and she’s leaving probably playing the best I’ve ever seen her play."

The team’s four seniors – Scott, defender Maegan Kiphart and forwards Lynn Baker and Brittany Pfeiffer – received bouquets of flowers before the game in honor of their contributions to the program.

"It’s a group of four really great leaders," Bush said. "They’ve come a long way in their four years, and they’ve welcomed and embraced the freshman, who were so huge for us this year, so that made a difference for us."

Zavalza led the Cougars with five goals on the season, including a team-high three game winners. Defender Stephanie Derieg, who added 12 shots and one goal on the season, was one of only three Cougars started all 18 games for Houston.

The Cougars outshot their opponents 241-233 during the year, but made only 16 goals while letting their opponents score 24 times and posted 10 more saves than their opponents. Bush said the win against Rice was something the Cougars will be able to build on next year.

"We played well all season. We were unlucky so many times, it was bound to go our way, and it was the perfect game for it to go our way," Bush said.

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