By Nathan Keil | Sports Editor
The opponent was different. The name on the jersey read Trojans across and they donned the crown of defending national champions. But the Baylor message never wavered. Never quit, never surrender.
Baylor soccer stormed back to tie the game at one with 16 seconds left in regulation on a goal from junior defender Sarah King and it was King who delivered the knockout to USC.
Leading 2-0 in penalty kicks, King smoothly fired it to left and passed a diving redshirt freshman goalkeeper Kaylie Collins to send the Bears to the Sweet Sixteen.
USC had kept Baylor on its toes defensively all game long, outshooting the Bears 18-11 and 8-5 on goal. The Trojans held the advantage in corners as well, collecting nine to Baylor’s six.
But in the end, it was freshman goalkeeper Jennifer Wandt and the Baylor defense that proved to be up to the challenge. Wandt, who made seven saves against the Trojans leading up the shootout, made two saves and forced two other wide misses from USC to secure a 1-1 tie and advancing 3-0 on PKs.
Baylor head coach Paul Jobson said that it was a collective team effort that helped the Bears prevail.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this team. Jen (Wandt) played great tonight. We have to remember she’s a true freshman so a lot of credit to her,” Jobson said. “Everybody in front of her played a fantastic game to be able to advance against the reining national champions.”
USC did not make it easy for Baylor, consistently putting pressure on the Baylor backline on Wandt. And that pressure paid for the Trojans, who defeated Eastern Washington 2-1 in 2OT last weekend to advance to the second round.
In the 72nd minute, after Baylor had pushed the ball out of the box and toward the fall sideline, junior forward Erika Okuma fired a bullet back into the box that fellow junior forward Leah Pruitt headed past Wandt giving USC a 1-0 lead.
Trailing 1-0 and with time running out on it, Baylor soccer gave one final push. Senior midfielder Caitlyn Schwartz got a good look in the box but Collins came up with the save. But, on the rebound, King fired to the opposite side of the net, tying the game at 1 and sending it to overtime.
King said that her goal is just the kind of goals that Baylor has been scoring all year long.
“It’s just a total Baylor goal, 16 seconds left. It’s a testament to how hard we work,” King said. “Whether it be 90 minutes or 100 minutes or PKs. We are out there grinding until we get the win.”
The Bears would have the first chance in the first extra period. Senior midfielder Alina De Lima, much like she in the first minute or regulation had a golden opportunity to win it, but misfired high and over the goal. Neither team threatened after De Lima’s shot.
USC would have the opportunities in the second overtime, collecting three chances in the 102nd minute. The first one was blocked. Wandt saved the second one and the third one missed high. Then in the 108th minute, senior forward Sydney Johnson has a good look and fired it off the crossbar, sending it to penalty kicks.
With the season on the line and pressure at its all time highest, it wasn’t the defending national champions that stayed calm and delivered in the clutch, it was Baylor, whose entire roster had only one game of NCAA experience heading into tonight.
First, it was Schwartz, who set up King’s game-tying goal near the end of regulation that delivered a strike to the right side of the net for a 1-0 lead. After three straight misses, kept the score the same, it was senior center midfielder Delanie Davis who connected for a 2-0 lead.
Delaney said that the key to penalty kicks was knowing that the advantage goes to the offense and being able to execute with that mindset.
“The biggest key is confidence,” Davis said. “You have to go out there and choose a side, and choose a tactic. You can’t second guess or slip up. You have to approach it with confidence. You have the advantage being eight yards away with just one person in the net. You just have to put it away.”
USC’s redshirt senior midfielder Amanda Rooney then stepped to the line, hoping to give the Trojans a fighting chance, but Wandt once again delivered the save.
Lastly, King, who broke the Trojans’ hearts with 16 ticks left on the clock in regulation, broke them for good, as her shot found the back of the net.
Baylor (14-5-3) advances to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time 2012. The Bears take on Notre Dame at 6 p.m. Sunday at Ellis Field in College Station.