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By Parmida Schahhosseini
No. 23 Baylor’s road to success will not be easy as it goes up against two Big 12 powerhouses beginning with a tough road test against Texas at 7 p.m. Friday before coming back home for a showdown against No. 15 Texas Tech at 1 p.m. Sunday at Betty Lou Mays Soccer Field.
“When you get to conference every team is really good,” senior defender Selby Polley said. “In Texas they have a lot of height, so it will be a good challenge in the air for us. Sunday with Tech it’s just always a battle. They’re probably one of our rivals in conference and it’s always really competitive when we play against them.”
Texas (9-4-1) is 3-1 in the Big 12 with its lone loss coming from No. 16 West Virginia. The Longhorns rank in the top three in five categories including shutouts, goals allowed, assists, assists per game and corner kicks. Texas’ offense has the potential to score, but doesn’t pose the same threat as West Virginia did. The Longhorns have six players who have scored two or more goals including sophomore forward Kelsey Shimmick and junior defender Brooke Gilbert leading the way with four goals apiece.
“They are efficient at what they do,” Baylor co-head coach Marci Jobson said. “They’re efficient in the box, they’re in the air. They have a 6-foot tall girl who can score some goals. They’re just a good team, so we’re going to have to operate on all cylinders.”
Good news for the Bears is how effective the team has been on the road. Baylor is unbeaten in 12 straight road matches with its last road loss coming against Long Beach State on Aug. 26, 2012. The Bears have been dominant on the road this season in most major offensive categories with a 3-0 advantage in goals, 41-29 in shots, 20-6 in shots on goal and have had three more corner kicks than opponents.
Baylor needs to improve in the midfield and control the tempo of the game. Texas has enough playmakers on the defensive side of the ball to limit scores. Texas’ foes have allowed 11 goals this season, but dynamic offenses have been able to find the net. Baylor will need to press and put pressure on the defenders by controlling the pace of the game. Baylor also needs to capitalize on its opportunities because its ability to create shots hasn’t been an issue. Baylor also will have to play strong in the air to combat Texas’ height advantage as they try to force long balls.
“I’m confident in our backline and our midfield to win those balls to get them out of dangerous areas and away from the goal,” senior midfielder Larissa Campos said. “Just because a team has height doesn’t mean they can dominate in the air, so I think we will have that advantage on them this Friday.”
Texas Tech (12-1-1) is coming off an offensive explosion with an 8-0 shutout against Arkansas Pine Bluff, which are the most goals any Big 12 team has scored this season. Texas Tech is one of two teams to remain unbeaten in conference play because of its combination to play well on both sides of the ball.
The Red Raiders lead the Big 12 in seven categories including shots, points (a combination of goals and assists, each assist is one point and a goal is worth two), goals, goals per game, goals allowed, goals against average and shutout average.
Texas Tech’s ability to score by committee with its physical play in the midfield makes it a lethal combination because several players have the potential to score. Nine players have scored two or more goals with seven of the nine players scoring three or more. The sophomores have stepped up for the Red Raiders with forward Janine Beckie leading the team with six goals and she also is one of five players with three assists. Forward Caity Heap, midfielder Alli Murphy and forward Briana Rohmer are the other contributing sophomores with four goals each. The Red Raiders unselfish play has also led to shots and goals. Ranking second in the Big 12, Texas Tech averages 2.14 assists per game, which is why Texas Tech has scored 36 goals this season.
It will be an interesting matchup to see how Baylor’s offense can match up against an adept Texas Tech defense, which has shutout opponents 11 times in 14 matches this season. Sophomore forward Bri Campos leads the Bears with five goals and three assists, but Baylor will have to score by committee to get in position to win this game. The Red Raiders’ stout defense has only allowed five goals and two assists this season. Baylor will have to improve on its midfield play and continue pressing through accurate passes down the field. Ball control will be vital if Baylor hopes to pull away with a win.
“This is a new weekend, we’re just seeing it as that, ”Campos said. “It’s another opportunity for us to do something great, and I think we’re really well prepared.”