Texas heads west for weekend matchups

Dalton Phillips

After sweeping its weekend matches to improve to 4-0 on the season, the Longhorn soccer team is now preparing for their stiffest competition of the season with a trip to the Golden State. Texas will face Cal on Friday afternoon before moving inland to face Sacramento State on Sunday night.

Just four short games into the season, Texas has already shown glimpses of a program able to compete in the Big 12. Friday’s road test will offer a measure of how much progress the team has made and how much further the burnt orange has left to go.

The success of the 2017 season hinges on the growth of the Longhorns’ freshmen. Head coach Angela Kelly is encouraged thus far by the progression of her young talent, who have already contributed four of the team’s seven goals this season.

“We’re excited because we’re creating,” Kelly said. “When you don’t create, then there is a concern. But now we’re honing in on the timing of those runs, how dynamic they need to be, the change of pace, the deception. And then you start to fine-tune some of those instincts, and it’s going to be lethal.”

The small adjustments will prove crucial against the pair of formidable California opponents.

Cal is a Pac 12 powerhouse and offensive juggernaut. The program notched a 13-5-3 record in 2016, earning its sixth straight season of 10 or more wins. Even a suffocating Texas defense — which has only allowed two goals this season — will be hard-pressed to contain the high-octane Bears forwards.

Meanwhile, Sacramento State is coming off of a season which saw 11 seniors graduate, including seven starters. Their roster, which boasts 11 freshmen, is comparable to that of Texas’, which has 10.

Texas’ veterans on the roster have mirrored their coach’s optimism in assessing the current freshman group. Junior midfielder Kayra Dollas attributes the players’ dramatic progress to the coaching staff as well as the Longhorns’ culture.

“I think that this freshman class is going to learn the most out of the past four freshman classes that have come,” Dollas said. “When you come in, you’re not a freshman anymore. You’re just a part of the UT soccer team. And (Kelly) emphasizes that a lot as well.”

The freshmen have given credit to the Longhorns’ leaders in easing the transition. A weekend on the road will help them further acclimate to collegiate soccer.