After a disappointing last week, head coach Angela Kelly praised her team postgame after their 3-1 win Friday night against the Stephen F. Austin Ladyjacks.
“I thought there were periods of the game where we played some of the prettiest soccer that I’ve seen since I’ve been here at Texas," Kelly said.
Texas had lofty expectations entering the 2019 season, hoping to build off their NCAA tournament appearance last year. However, through the first three games, the Longhorns underwhelmed thus far, scraping together a season opening win against Gonzaga and going winless on their Colorado trip.
Early on, tonight’s match did not look promising for Texas either after the Ladyjacks were able to steal an early goal at 15 minutes via a header from forward Mattie Musser.
Fortunately for Texas, that goal seemed to be the switch necessary to energize the Longhorns. Even watching from the screen, you were able to see the change in the Longhorns’ demeanor on the field. Junior midfielder Haley Berg was able to get Texas on the board after successfully finishing sophomore forward MacKenzie McFarland’s cross.
Texas continued its dominance into the second half, getting goals from freshman forward Teni Akindoju — her first collegiate goal— and another one from Berg with just under ten minutes remaining.
“The buildup play was nice,” Kelly said. “The interchange and the movement in the front six was fantastic.”
Much of the early season attacking had come from sophomore midfielder Julia Grosso and forwards senior Cyera Hintzen and freshman Sydney Nobles, so seeing other faces get into the action can only mean good things. Kelly also discussed the importance of their improved attacking play after the match.
“I challenged the team with getting more shots on goal," Kelly said. "I just wanted to see them get more rewarded for their movements and their efforts, but we needed to execute. I thought the second half, getting the next two were really important. There were a lot of lethal opportunities tonight. I’m just really pleased we executed as a squad.”
Arguably more impressive than the offensive output was the pressure the Longhorn defense maintained. After giving up eight goals in the first three games, Texas was able to prevent the early blemish. A big part of that was the return of senior defender Emma Jett, who missed the first three games of the season due to injury.
“Every team deals with it in the country with our season being so quick and so intense,” Kelly said. “She’s been a mainstay in our back line. Emma will continue to get more and more played in, and that’s only good things for us.”
As Texas continues to march through their nonconference schedule, having key cogs such as Jett in the lineup will help Texas as it faces off against a host of tough opponents. Regardless of the outcomes, it is for certain that the Longhorns will enter Big 12 play as battle tested as anyone in the conference.