The nonconference schedule for Texas soccer has been a roller-coaster ride riddled with adversity. With the team suffering several injuries to key contributors, including both senior forward Cyera Hintzen and redshirt junior forward Cydney Billups, things have been less than easy.
However, according to head coach Angela Kelly, that adversity could pay off in conference play as the Longhorns travel to Lawrence, Kan. for their first match against a Big 12 opponent.
“I think adversity is fantastic. I think in this generation, they don’t see enough adversity. The lesson of resiliency and perseverance isn’t being taught to them a lot, and the only way to persevere is when there are hard times,” Kelly said. “For me, this is all a journey, and they have to continue to learn these things.”
Overcoming adversity within the context of sports is not just about the wins and losses. Hardship in college athletics allows athletes to develop skills that they can carry with them for the rest of their lives.
“Life is not easy as we all know, and when they get into the real world, I want them to have a backbone,” Kelly said. “I want them to pull from their athletic career and understand that there is never a time to give up.”
The match against Kansas will be an opportune time to begin putting those lessons into practice. The Longhorns will hope to reset their season with Big 12 play after going 5-4 in nine nonconference matches, a disappointing mark for a talented team.
Sophomore midfielder Julia Grosso talked about the importance of having a fresh perspective heading into Big 12 matches after Sunday’s win.
“For us, I think we faced adversity early on in the preseason, coming off some tough losses,” Grosso said. “For our group, that’s probably the biggest thing, just because it’s easy to get in your own head and get down. We realize that conference is coming up, and we have a clean slate and can move forward from this.”
Back in early August, the Longhorns were picked to finish third in the Big 12 preseason conference poll. Texas was ranked No. 19 in the country at the time, and while things did not go according to plan, the team has the pieces to remain a threat to other Big 12 teams.
The Jayhawks will be arguably the toughest matchup the Longhorns have faced so far this season. Despite being picked to finish sixth in the Big 12, Kansas has gotten off to a hot start, going 8-2 in nonconference play, vaulting to a top-10 national ranking at eight.
In order to pick up the victory, Texas will need to make sure to capitalize on their offensive opportunities. After the Longhorns’ loss to Providence, overcoming misses and finishing shots on goal have both become important areas of focus in practice.
On the other side of the pitch is Kansas senior forward Katie McClure, who is tied for fourth in the nation with nine goals. Additionally, Kansas’ senior defender Addisyn Merrick will be key in keeping the Longhorns from getting opportunities past Kansas’ backline, as she was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week last week.
The match could set the tone for the rest of the season, and the Longhorns are ready for the challenge.