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No. 22 Baylor will take a break from conference play with a match against the No. 20 BYU Cougars for the last nonconference game of the regular season at 7 p.m. tonight at Betty Lou Mays Soccer Field.
“BYU is a great team,” Baylor co-head coach Marci Jobson said. “They have a lot of great players. The remind me of West Virginia some, so we are going to have to really lock down.”
This is the first meeting between the two teams. Baylor (8-1-2) and BYU (5-3-1) are looking to rebound as both are coming off a loss. BYU has dropped its last two games as its offense has struggled to capitalize on its opportunities. Despite outshooting Long Beach State 9-7 on Sept. 21, the ball wasn’t able to find its way into the net.
The Bears have scored 25 goals, 11 more goals than BYU, and are outscoring opponents 20-4 at home. Baylor also has outshot opponents 149-58, but the Cougars have been able to generate shots. Baylor’s defense hopes to limit its shots as it uncharacteristically gave up 19 shots to West Virginia on Sunday.
“After coming off the loss we’re all just really excited to get back out there and to get back to work,” senior defender Taylor Heatherly said. “It’s a great team and I think we are just so excited to play another opponent. There are some things we have to work on at practice this week in preparation, but we’re anxious and excited.”
The Cougars also score by committee with freshman forward Ashley Hatch and senior midfielder Rachel Manning leading the way with three goals apiece. The defense also will have to contain senior midfielder Cloee Colohan, who is second on the team in shots taken at 23. BYU’s style of play is similar to Baylor and has the potential to attack at any moment.
“I’ve heard that they play a lot like us, so it’s going to be a battle the whole game,” senior midfielder Kat Ludlow said. “They play like a family, they play rough and we play just the same, so it’s just going to be two good teams just going at it.”
The Bears defense leads the NCAA in shutout percentage at .818 and ranks 11th in goals against average at .437. The team defense is hoping to have its way with a struggling BYU offense, but the opponent isn’t shy about taking its shots. The Cougars have taken 134 shots and have been able to generate shots in its losses. Against No. 19 Denver on Sept. 26, BYU took 10 shots, but couldn’t capitalize on scoring chances.
Baylor has been able to generate offense this season with different players stepping up. Sophomore forward Bri Campos and freshman midfielder Ashley York lead Baylor with four goals apiece. Ludlow and junior forward Natalie Huggins have scored three goals each, and eight other players have scored one or more goals. Freshman defender Lindsay Burns has improved and making her mark on the offense with two goals against Oklahoma and West Virginia, as well as the defense. Burns’ goal against the Mountaineers sparked a potential comeback, but Baylor was in too deep a hole to dig itself out.
“You saw a team fight back from a three-goal deficit,” Jobson said. “A lot of teams would quit and they’re not going to quit and they’re never going to quit and that’s who they are.”
Baylor’s physical play will be a good matchup against BYU’s defense because the Cougars are capable of locking down players and stealing away possessions.
BYU has limited its opponents to 76 shots and have only given up eight goals. Baylor will have to press frequently and capitalize on its opportunities to pull away with a win.
The Bears host BYU at 7 p.m. tonight at Betty Lou Mays Soccer Field.