It definitely has not been an ideal start to a senior forward season for Cyera Hintzen. However, she was able to start flipping the script on that narrative Thursday night, scoring the game-winning goal in Texas’ 1-0 victory over the Kansas Jayhawks to open Big 12 play.
From the moment she first put on the burnt orange jersey, the forward has been a high-impact player for the Longhorns. As a Big 12 All-Freshman Team member and All-Big 12 Conference Second Team member in 2016, an All-Big 12 Conference First member in 2017 and Conference Offensive Player of the Year in 2018, Hintzen came into 2019 with lofty expectations.
After starting out the season nicely with a goal against Gonzaga, Hintzen was scoreless for the next four games.
While she was able to get back into the scoring column against Washington, that goal came with a cost. Hintzen suffered a head injury after colliding with a teammate, subsequently knocking her out of the Longhorns’ next three games.
Texas head coach Angela Kelly sang Hintzen’s praises about what the Longhorns were missing with her out and their excitement having her back in the lineup.
“She’s one of the top players in the country, and at any moment she can score,” Kelly said. “She showed that today.”
After an injury, athletes of all levels are often a little hesitant in their first game back. That was not the case for Hintzen, who attacked early and often against a Jayhawk defense that featured last week’s Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week in Addisyn Merrick.
Entering the game, Hintzen felt that her aggressiveness was not only important to get in the flow of the game herself, but also to lead the charge for the Longhorns.
“I was just trying to get back there and lead by example and help us come out here and get a win,” Hintzen said.
After two Hintzen shots (among others) in the first 32 minutes were saved by Kansas goalie Sarah Peters, Hintzen, along with the rest of the Texas offense, were relatively quiet for the next 30 minutes.
In order to give the Longhorns a boost, Kelly brought in freshman forward Kyra Falcone and junior defender Peyton McGee during the 67th minute. Not three minutes later, that substitution paid off.
Standing just past midfield, freshman defender Emma Regan shaped a dart from the right side into the box. In between a defender and Peters, Hintzen was able to get a foot on the ball and redirect it between the two Jayhawks, settling it in the left corner of the net.
“I think Haley (Berg) did a great job pulling two people out,” Hintzen said. “Regan made an amazing run out wide and perfectly weighted that ball. In practice, (Coach Kelly) always tells us to get in the box, so I knew that was the only shot that I had.”
That goal ended up being all that Texas needed. Despite Kansas getting off 12 shots, the Jayhawks were not able to capitalize, giving the Longhorns their much-needed statement win to open conference play.
“That’s a really good team,” Kelly said. “In this conference, you’re going to have to scrape and claw for everything, and we showed that tonight.”