Rice named C-USA Player of the Year

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Kentucky senior All-American defender Barry Rice – the two-time Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year – has been named C-USA Preseason Defensive Player of the Year in a voting by the nine conference head coaches, the league office announced Wednesday morning.

Rice, a native of Parma, Ohio, is the only player in C-USA history to win conference defensive player of the year accolades in back-to-back seasons. A 5-foot-11 defender, Rice became the third All-American in program history in 2008, as selected by Top Drawer Soccer and College Soccer News.

In 2008, Rice led UK with 33 shots while starting all 21 games. Rice finished with two goals and one assist in 2008, just a year removed from leading UK with seven goals and one assist. Rice had to step up and carry the offensive load for UK in 2007 as the Wildcats were crippled by injury. Already in the preseason, Rice has been named an All-American and a member of the Hermann Trophy National Player of the Year watch list.

Superbly athletic and a force in the air, of Rice's seven goals in 2007, six came in the form of headers off corner kicks. In 2008, UK began tracking a unique stat in an effort to highlight Rice's unique athletic ability, contested headers won vs. contested headers lost. Last season, Rice won a staggering 189-of-218 contested header attempts, an impressive 87-percent clip. Rice's best defensive game in 2008 came in a regular-season scoreless draw against Memphis, when he won 32-of-36 contested header attempts.

Joining Rice on the preseason All-Conference USA team is senior midfielder Jason Griffiths, who was a first-team all-conference performer in 2008.

Griffiths, a 5-foot-11 midfielder, has totaled 27 career points in his three-year career, including nine goals and nine assists. In 2008, Griffiths – a key cog for the UK offensive attack that ranked No. 15 in the NCAA – finished with four goals and three assists. In his career, Griffiths is a perfect 6-for-6 in penalty-kick attempts in the regular season.

Kentucky opens the season with the UK Invitational Sept. 5 at the UK Soccer Complex. UK will host IUPUI in the season opener at 7:30 p.m. ET.

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