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Friday, November 16, 2018

Soccer

Soccer player’s return has given team a key weapon


Desiree Bowen returned to the Women’s soccer team better than ever after a season off the field. | Courtesy of Stephen Pinchback, UH Athletics

Sunlight was beginning to fade across the Texas sky as the Cougars took the field at the Carl Lewis Complex for their home opener against the Prairie View A&M Panthers.

It was a the first home game of the season, but for one of the Cougars’ best players, it was a homecoming after not playing for the entire 2017 season.

Things were different for junior Desiree Bowen two years ago. She led the team with 14 points and seven goals in 2016 and was one of Houston Soccer’s star players as sophomore.

Although UH finished with  a disappointing 8–10–3 record and went 1–6–2 in the American Athletic Conference, it was clear that the team had a bright future.

Bowen put up numbers that placed her high in the program’s record books. Her hat trick against New Mexico State in 2016 is tied for the second-most goals scored in a game for the Cougars, and her .44 goals per game that fall is ranked eighth all-time.

That following winter, Chris Pfau resigned as head coach for Houston and Diego Bocanegra was brought in to lead the team.

That spring, after a series of events took a toll on Bowen’s academic and personal life, the decision was made that Houston’s top striker would sit out the 2017 season.

“When you play soccer in college it’s hard for you to find balance in your life,” Bowen said. “You have soccer, school… you need time for yourself.”

Bowen credits family, faith and her team for helping her get back on track during the rough patch.

“The coaching staff, my family and God is what helped me come back stronger than ever,” she said.

Although she did not take the field, Bowen stuck around her team last fall. She watched them take the field with a new coach, while she focused on improving herself academically and athletically.

By summer’s end, she was set to return.

Bowen’s first game back was in a 3–1 loss against HBU, but Bowen finished the game with team-leading five shots. The second game of the season against Lamar did not end much better, a 2-0 loss.

A little under 12 minutes into the game against PVAMU on Aug. 24, Bowen was finally able to net her first goal of the season. 47 minutes later she shot a rocket that flew right past the opposing goalkeeper to put Houston up 4–0.

“It was definitely a good feeling putting the ball in the back of the net,” Bowen said. “It was a great feeling.”

With the help of Bowen’s goals, the Cougars won 5–0, the first time the team has scored five goals in one game since entering the AAC and first time since a 9–0 rout of Texas Southern in 2011.

When asked what motivated Bowen’s return to soccer, she said her teammates’ 2017 campaign under Bocanegra.

“Watching (Houston’s) games and seeing how good they did in the first year of (Bocanegra) just really excited me, and I was ready to come back,” she said.

Sure enough, Bowen’s lucky No. 7 found itself on the lineup again for the Cougars, and she has been on fire since.

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