By Branson Hardcastle | Reporter
The Baylor men’s soccer club (0-1-2) took to the field Saturday in Waco against the University of North Texas and Sunday against Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Against UNT, Baylor controlled the game early by moving the ball well and controlling offensive possession. UNT made the game more physical by disrupting the tempo of the Bears by using well-timed slide tackles and interrupting the passing lanes.
The game grew more intense and physical as time went on. Players from both teams were pushing each other, using slide tackles and trash talk to express their distaste. Multiple players from both teams received yellow cards throughout the game. There were 20 fouls in total recorded, one of which was a red card given to a UNT player for excessive behavior and aggression toward the referee.
Senior forward and captain Major Johnson said the physicality added an extra competitive component to the match.
“North Texas is a physical team and they always have been. It has always been a battle,” Johnson said. “It is always a fun match going against them especially with our newer guys who don’t really get to experience some physicality from other teams.”
The game changed when freshman midfielder Luke Stetler scored for the Bears after 43 minutes. Sophomore midfielder Scott Simigian assisted on the play to give the Bears a 1-0 lead just before halftime.
“I give that goal credit to Scott. He’s really the one who worked down that side and drew the defenders away from me,” Stetler said. “I trust him and when [Scott] passed me the ball, the keeper stepped up and I just hit it right behind the keeper.”
Baylor remained ahead for the first 15 minutes of the second half until a mistake by the defense after 60 minutes helped UNT tie the game. The goal came from a penalty kick for UNT, just outside the box, when a Baylor player attempted to clear the ball, but instead scored in his own goal.
For the remainder of the game, the Bears tried to create some shot opportunities by adding an extra offensive player and taking a defender off, but were not able to because of the strong defense by UNT. The game ended in a 1-1 tie, which was not exactly the result Johnson and the rest of the team were looking for.
“We were lacking in a few areas. Something we need to work on is having the team work as a team and building chemistry,” Johnson said. “[Chemistry] is just something that builds upon itself. You can’t build Rome in a day.”
The game against SMU on Sunday did not end in the Bears’ favor either. SMU won 1-0 with its lone goal coming after 60 minutes.
SMU was able to control the ball for most of the first half and tested the Bears’ defense. It held up in the first half, but according to Scott Simigian, tired legs left the door open for SMU to score in the second half.
The Bears had multiple chances to score but couldn’t manage to put the ball in the net. The Bears totaled seven shots, with six of them on goal.
Simigian said there’s plenty of room for improvement as the team prepares for their next game.
“Our game against SMU shows us that we need to work on keeping the ball once we have it, and getting more players up on offense in our attacking half of the field,” Simigian said. “We will definitely be working on that this week in practice and hopefully put it to use next weekend against Rice.”
The Bears will play at 1 p.m. Saturday at Rice University. Baylor is still seeking its first win of the season.