Soccer upset by West Virginia in semifinals of Big 12 Championship tournament


Lorianne Willett

Outside back Emma Regan runs downfield during Texas’ game against OU on October 27, 2022. The Longhorns beat the Sooners 3-1.

Evan Vieth, General Sports Reporter

Texas soccer ended its Big 12 season in heartbreak, losing a close 1-0 battle to the West Virginia Mountaineers in the semifinals of the Big 12 Championship tournament Thursday.

The Longhorns came out of the gate struggling against the Mountaineers, unable to find their offensive footing until the very end of the half, while West Virginia’s strong counterattack gave Texas’ defense fits. The wind played a large role in the game as well, causing many errant passes on both sides. 

“The wind was a factor, and I wasn’t expecting that,” head coach Angela Kelly said. “I think it dictated a lot of both halves.”

Graduate student goalkeeper Savannah Madden was the main star during Texas’ first-half struggles, saving the Longhorns on two separate corners. The latter came in the 32nd minute from fifth-year forward Lauren Segalla’s header, which looked like a perfect scoring opportunity. But Madden had other ideas, as her strong goalkeeping kept the ball just barely out of the net.

Kelly praised the efforts of Madden, senior midfielder Carlee Allen and sophomore center back EmJ Cox in defense. 

“They’ve definitely grown a lot,” Kelly said. “I was pleased with how we possessed it in the back.”

The first half ended in controversy, as a 42nd-minute run by sophomore forward Trinity Byars ended with her being taken down right inside the box. To the dismay of Texas’ supporters, the referee did not give a penalty.

“That was tough,” Kelly said. “It’s unfortunate.”

With Byars and other Texas attackers pushed up field, the Mountaineers embarked on a rapid counterattack.

Using multiple passes and quick pace, Mountaineer sophomore forward Leah Sparacio and Segalla found a two-on-two just outside the box. Sparacio laid it off to Segalla, and between a strong shot and a deflection, Madden had no chance to stop the shot. West Virginia ended the half ahead of the favored Longhorns.

“Everyone knows that we need to come together,” Missimo said. “We showed we had grit, unity and selflessness. … It just didn’t result in our favor.”

The second half was one of the most action-packed halves of the year for the Longhorns. Time was the Longhorns’ biggest enemy, as the Mountaineers made it their goal to cling to a 1-0 lead for the entirety of the 45 minutes. 

Texas’ offense gained a spark in the 54th minute after a Byars run that nearly resulted in a goal. Senior forward Sydney Nobles’ substitution in the 62nd minute gave a much-needed boost off the bench, but with 15 minutes to play, the Longhorns still hadn’t converted.

“I thought (Nobles) gave us a great spark,” Kelly said. “That’s what we expect from players that we call ‘game changers’ that come off the bench.”

Texas, despite its efforts and close calls, couldn’t get the game-tying goal. Kayza Massey, West Virginia keeper and Big 12 goalie of the year, played a nearly perfect game in goal and stopped many of the Longhorns’ set pieces, a usual strength for the team. 

Despite the loss, Kelly was confident about the team going forward. The Longhorns suffered just their second loss of the season, and Kelly noted how it was a fantastic season for the team.

“It’s not that the season has come to an end,” Kelly said. “It’s just now beginning again.”

After the loss, Texas still has the NCAA Tournament to look forward to. On Monday, Texas will learn who it will face in the biggest tournament of the year in search of the program’s first national championship.

“We’ll just wait until Monday to see who we play,” Kelly said. “The players have given so much all year, and I can’t be more proud of what they’ve done.”