A few weeks ago, it was unclear how well Texas soccer would fair when Big 12 play began. After an up-and-down nonconference performance, it was anyone’s guess. However, the team picked to finish third in the conference during the preseason has surprised many through two conference games.
The talented team flashed potential at times this season, including in a 2-0 victory against Washington, but had also displayed plenty of flaws in lossess to Monmouth and Providence. With various injuries spread across the roster, there was doubt that the team would become any more consistent.
After two Big 12 wins — one over Kansas and a 1-0 win over Kansas State on Sunday — the Longhorns are sitting in first place. The adversity the team has struggled with this season is starting to pay off on the field.
“I just think our early season adversity has definitely created resiliency and our team is showing that in their play,” Texas head coach Angela Kelly said. “They have fortitude, a never say die attitude.”
Although the margin of victory versus Kansas State was a single goal, the Longhorns were aggressive and dominant from the start. In the first 15 minutes of the game, Texas collected six shots compared to Kansas State’s zero. While the game would become more even, the Longhorns continued their aggression on offense.
“It was a well organized K-State team,” Kelly said. “I think the shots were 22 to 15 in favor of us. The K-State goalkeeper was huge on quite a few of those 22 shots.”
At the end of the first half, the team had the chance to collect the first goal of the game. Senior defender Atu Mshana kicked the ball well past the backline to senior forward Cyera Hintzen, who had snuck behind the Kansas State defense. Hintzen would leap for a header, but the ball would up outside of the goal post.
Texas seemed to have found the back of the net in minute 63 as senior forward Cyera Hintzen and junior forward Haley Berg found sophomore Julia Grosso, who scored from eight yards out. However, an offsides call negated the goal.
Both teams would continue to trade opportunities until the 86th minute. Redshirt junior Cydney Billups sent an outlet pass to Berg, who then found Grosso about 12 yards away from the goal. Only needing one touch before firing a shot, Grosso found the back of the net.
“Goals are really hard to come by in this game,” Kelly said. “You can’t just draw something up and score goals in our game. You have teams that drop, teams that press and teams that do a little bit of both. K-State showed a couple of different formations during the game within the run of play.
The Longhorns head back to Austin for three consecutive home games against TCU, West Virginia and Oklahoma State, respectively. If the team can sustain this level of play, there is reason for optimism moving forward in Big 12 play.