Freshman forward shines in season opener

Dalton Phillips

It didn't take long for Haley Berg to make her mark on the Longhorns’ season opener on Friday night.

The freshman forward earned her first goal 25 seconds into her collegiate debut on a long cross and soft pass inside the box, setting the tone as Texas claimed a 2-1 victory over Rice at Mike A. Myers Stadium.

“I didn’t know when it (the first goal) was going to come, only that it was going to come eventually. I’m just glad it was the first game,” Berg said. “We knew we had to come out with a hard mentality. And even from the kickoff, we knew Rice was going to be a really hard opponent. So we started off fast and Cyera (Hintzen) had a great cross and (Mikayla Flores) was right there. She laid it off and just made it easy for me.”

The goal marked the quickest in Texas soccer history since a 10-second score in 1995. The early boost let the Longhorns control the pace for much of the remaining match, leading to a second goal before halftime from the sophomore Hintzen to give the squad a commanding 2-0 lead.

“A fast goal always sets the standard for how you’re going to play throughout the game,” sophomore goalkeeper Nicole Curry said. “It allows the whole team to bring out the energy and keep fighting.”

Rice favored a break-heavy offense on Friday, trying to get their forwards out and ahead of a stifling Texas defense. And despite four offsides calls – many of which came early as the Owls looked to answer the early goal – Rice got several 1-on-1 looks in the first half, leading to several narrow saves from Curry.

It wasn’t until after the break that Rice cut into the Texas lead. A last-second redirect from midfielder Lianne Mananquil eight yards out rolled past a diving Curry to make it a one-possession game at the 60-minute mark.

“They got in behind us more than I would have liked, but we can solve that,” head coach Angela Kelly said. “There are a couple of tweaks that we can make so that it's not as disruptive of a style and cleaning the ball up and getting down the field. We'll talk to our group about what needed to happen there, and we'll organize and move forward.”

But no more goals would scoot past Curry after the 60th minute, and Texas began its season 1–0 . The Longhorns will now get a one-day break before aiming to get two games over .500 on Sunday as they host Western Kentucky.