Sept. 12, 2010
Oklahoma Head Coach Nicole Nelson and company were looking for an improved performance following the 3-2 loss at Missouri State on Friday.
"It was really important for us to respond in the manner we did today," said Nelson. "I like what I saw in the first half, and in the second half. We found a way to get a goal in the second half but I didn't think we were as sharp as we had been in the first half. Overall, a good response to a bad loss on Friday."
The first half was controlled by the Sooners and featured nine shots, four on goal, and two corner kicks. However, Rice goalkeeper Catherine Fitzsimmons logged four of her nine saves on the day in the first 45 minutes to keep OU off the board.
After a scoreless first half, the OU offense broke through in the second session thanks to Palmer, who was held scoreless in the first three games of the year. Palmer netted the game winner at the 61:02 mark and was assisted by freshman Zoe Dickson, her first of the year.
The senior forward from Plano, Texas, has responded as of late with a goal in each of the last three games. Now with 32 career goals, Palmer moved into second place at Oklahoma in career points (68) and only trails Logan Womack (2000-03), who tallied 75 in her career. Palmer also trails Womack for the program record in goals scored with 34.
"It's great. Whitney has really become a vocal leader for us," added Nelson about the senior's performance in the last three games. "Her performance has always led us and she's really helping our energy as a group, especially with these younger players. I think we're seeing Whitney getting back to being Whitney."
While Palmer led the offensive charge on Sunday that featured 19 shots opposite Rice's 13, sophomore goalkeeper Kelsey Devonshire held the Owls scoreless for 90 minutes.
The shutout featured eight saves and marked the second of the season for Devonshire and the Sooners. She has started every game since stepping on campus and has eight career shutouts, a mark that ranks fourth all-time at OU.
While Devonshire has started 25 straight games in net for OU, two freshmen made their first career starts on Sunday. Annalisa Hall and Amy Petrikin both cracked the starting lineup for the first time and became the fifth and sixth freshmen to start a game this season. Overall, nine newcomers, eight freshmen, have logged minutes for the Sooners in 2010.
Sunday's win avenged the Sooners' only other meeting in the series with Rice. The Owls won 1-0 in 2008 in Norman during Nelson's first year at the helm.
OU has one more full weekend of non-conference action remaining until the Big 12 opener on Sept. 24 at home against Texas Tech.
Next weekend features one of the toughest challenges of the season for Oklahoma as it travels to USC on Friday, Sept. 17 and UC-Santa Barbara on Sunday, Sept. 19. Both the Trojans and Gauchos were NCAA tournament participants a year ago.
OU is returning the trip to Los Angeles after USC escaped Norman a year ago with a 1-0 victory, the first meeting in the series. The Sooners and Gauchos will be meeting for the first time a week from today.