Texas prepares for North Texas in tourney

Dalton Phillips

Friday can’t come quickly enough for the Longhorns.

Fresh off of a disappointing first-round loss at the hands of Baylor in the Big 12 Championship, the Longhorns are eager for redemption heading into the NCAA Tournament. 

Monday’s televised draw saw North Texas selected as the Longhorns’ home opponent. The matchup marks Texas’ first postseason appearance since 2014.

“Big 12 (play) didn’t go as planned,” freshman forward Haley Berg said. “But we’ve looked over it, we’ve talked as a team and with our coaches, we know what happened and we know what we need to do to get back to our fighting mentality.”

The two programs met earlier this year in a preseason contest. Texas dominated possession, outshooting the Mean Green 21-7, but it took a last-minute goal by sophomore Cyera Hintzen to put the team away, and the Longhorns edged by 1-0 on the road. 

Baylor had also lost at home to Texas by a single goal prior to pulling off the overtime upset at the Big 12 Championship. Despite a stellar start to the season that helped lift the Longhorns back into the national conversation, the team has looked shaky down the stretch, emerging victorious in only two of its last seven contests. After remaining unbeaten through seven trips to extra minutes, the Longhorns have now dropped their last two contests in overtime. 

Texas can’t afford another weak showing in the NCAA Tournament. With little postseason experience and a recent string of losses, it’s questionable whether Texas has the pieces to make a deep run. 

“All year, we’ve been wanting to send a message,” head coach Angela Kelly said. “And from the very beginning it’s been taking one game at a time, and that is certainly the continued mindset. But I’m really proud of this group and their ability to put Texas back on the map.”

Friday will be the first trip to the NCAA Tournament for many of the team’s upperclassmen. To them, the opportunity to represent Texas at Mike A. Myers Stadium represents a milestone in its own right. After two years of missing the postseason, earning the bid as a No. 4 seed is the biggest achievement of their careers to date. Now it is up to them to see it through. 

“This is it,” redshirt sophomore forward Mikayla Flores said. “This is what all the hard work and the pushing through and the overcoming and the years of sitting on the sideline injured, this is what it’s all for. So we’re not taking anything for granted, and soaking it all in.”