Andres Zamora/The Daily Texan
No. 20 Texas soccer continued its impressive run of form, opening the Big 12 Tournament with a 5-2 statement victory over the Oklahoma Sooners behind a hat trick from freshman forward Trinity Byars and two goals from senior forward Mackenzie McFarland.
The Longhorns struggled early in the season because of the youth head coach Angela Kelly decided to play. As the postseason tournaments begin, they are relying on both their experience and youth, and that was on display Sunday night at the Round Rock Multipurpose Complex.
“We’re excited about the growth of this squad,” Kelly said. “They’ve grown so much in our 12-week stint together since our first match against UCF.”
McFarland matched her season goal total, scoring a brace in the first half of the contest. Throughout the period, the offense ran through McFarland, and it was only fitting that she would be the one who gave the Longhorns their first goal of the postseason.
Byars drew two defenders, leaving McFarland wide open making a darting run down the left side of the field. McFarland received the ball and kept her pace as she raced toward the goalkeeper, who began to come out to meet her.
After having a similar opportunity earlier in the game, McFarland sent a powerful low ball past the keeper into the back netting as McFarland ran to the bench to celebrate.
Not even 10 minutes later, McFarland and the Longhorns struck again but this time off a deflection. Freshman standout Lexi Missimo tried her chance at a shot, managing to put enough power behind it making the goalkeeper struggle to gain possession of the ball.
Noticing the ball was still loose, McFarland made a quick run into the box and put the ball into the back of the net for her second goal of the match as the Longhorns went up 2-0 into the half.
This Longhorn team has come a long way, and it was evident in the second half of the match when tactical changes were made. The Sooners came out of halftime pressing higher up and moving more attacking players forward.
This Oklahoma tactic worked well at times, giving them two goals, but it also gave Texas the opportunity to add to their total. Byars had a hat trick in the second period alone, scoring goals by racing past the Sooner backline and putting away shots against the keeper.
“They were throwing so many numbers forward making it really hard for us,” Kelly said. “We had to then match and exceed that. Getting those couple of goals against the front of play, when they were pressing us, was huge.”
The Longhorns will take the field again this upcoming Thursday at 7:30 p.m., taking on the winner of Baylor and West Virginia. Texas drew against both squads during the regular season in double overtime, making the semifinal matchup an intense one.
“This is tournament time,” Kelly said. “It’s win and advance.”