Texas ends Big 12 regular season on positive note

Aneesh Namburi

eading into their match against the Oklahoma Sooners, Texas soccer was hoping that the end result Thursday would be different than the Red River football game that took place a few weeks prior. While the contest did have some back and forth excitement, the outcome ultimately fell in favor of the Longhorns, who won in a 3-2 overtime victory.

“It was a lot of grit from us at the end,” Texas head coach Angela Kelly said. “We came out a little flat, and they got on the board early. While that was unacceptable, I thought we had a great response, specifically from Cyera Hintzen, who led us tonight offensively.”

Texas needed a victory Thursday to stay in the top tier of the Big 12 as the regular season came to a close. However, things did not start ideally for the Longhorns. Not even five minutes in, Oklahoma freshman midfielder Maya McCutcheon was able to get the ball past junior goalkeeper Savannah Madden, giving the Sooners an early 1-0 lead.

From there, the Longhorns buckled down and were able to find openings within the Oklahoma backline, leading to goals from forwards senior Cyera Hintzen and freshman Sydney Nobles, giving Texas a 2-1 lead going into halftime.

One big difference in Thursday’s game was the movement of the offense. Since junior midfielder Haley Berg moved down to the midfield and sophomore defender Cameron Brooks entered the frontline, Texas’ attack has been noticeably more cohesive, and it showed in the Longhorns’ performance.

“It’s a credit to Cameron and her willingness to come out and get extra touches after practice in front of the coaching staff,” Kelly said. “We’ve always known that she can strike the ball well and with a ton of pace. It’s just been a perfect example of taking advantage of your opportunities.”

A scare came in the second half for Texas when Oklahoma evened the match back up in the 69th minute. The Longhorns have been privy to giving up leads in the past, so this goal had the potential to put the squad on edge.

However, instead of folding, Texas persevered like it has all season. It took some time — the rest of regulation and two overtimes — for the Longhorns to receive the goal they had been coveting, but the Cameron Brooks clincher was a byproduct of Kelly’s biggest point all year: finishing opportunities. Texas had seven shots on goal against the Sooners, but their 3 for 7 conversion rate is a strong star for a Longhorn team heading into a pivotal stretch of the year.

Up next for Texas is the Big 12 Championship, a weeklong tournament with several implications. The Longhorns’ success could be the difference in determining whether they make it back to the NCAA Tournament. Currently ranked third after the regular season, Texas will need to prove that it can sustain a high level of play and make a deep run in the championships in order to be in a good position for the postseason.

“Our goal and mission has been to win a conference title,” Kelly said. “It’s going to be an interesting time in Kansas City over the next couple of weeks with all eight teams having essentially an equal opportunity to win, so we’re going to be excited and hungry for the battle, making sure we put everything
out there.”