Championship time for soccer

By Greg DeVries
Sports Writer

The Big 12 tournament has not treated the Baylor women’s soccer team well in the recent past. Last year, the team lost to a Missouri team in penalty kicks that it had beaten 3-0 earlier in the season. But this is a new year, and the No. 14 Bears will look to reach further and win the Big 12 tournament in San Antonio.

As the second seed, Baylor will take on the seventh-seeded Oklahoma State Cowgirls, who finished 1-5-3 in conference play, but one of their three ties came in Stillwater, Okla. against the Bears.

In that game, the Bears outshot the Cowgirls 25-6, but Oklahoma State senior goalkeeper Adrianna Franch repeatedly came up with spectacular saves.

“It left a bitter taste in our mouth that we came back with a 0-0 tie after overtime,” junior defender Kat Ludlow said. “We just want to go in there and put it away quick. We just really want to show what we have. We’ve been preparing for this over the past week or so, and I think we’re really ready for it.”

Franch is a skilled goalkeeper and the Bears weren’t surprised by her abilities. But to advance in the tournament, Baylor will have to get the ball in the back of the net this time in the first round.

“She has been the glue that’s kept them together,” assistant coach Paul Jobson said. “She is a fantastic goalkeeper and it is an equalizer. If your defense isn’t as solid as it has been in the past, she is stopping everything. We tested her really, really well. It’s not like we weren’t getting great opportunities when we were there. She was just on her game and played great. She’s a very athletic kid.”

The Bears still identify the Cowgirls as a dangerous opponent. The program has had a lot of success in years past and their overall record is still 11-5-3.

“They definitely have a lot of really good tools,” senior forward Lisa Sliwinski said. “I don’t know what part of the equation kept them from performing like they have in the past few years, but they’re definitely still dangerous.”

Postseason soccer brings an added element of excitement to all of the teams involved. Though the Bears will make it to the NCAA Tournament and will likely play at home, the players know that these games are some of their last.

“There’s a little heightened feelings about this game, could be our last one, so lets give it everything we have, but I don’t think we prepare for them any differently than we have during the regular season,” Sliwinski said.

The Baylor defense has been very good and the Bears will look to limit teams’ shots while applying a lot of pressure to pile on shots of their own. Baylor has the third-ranked goals-against average in the nation, allowing .445 goals per game, and the sixth-ranked shutout percentage. As solid as the defense is, the Bears will have to put goals on the board to win. Recently, the team offense has been firing on all cylinders, and Baylor will look to carry that momentum into the postseason.

“[We’re] really excited to try and redeem ourselves there,” Sliwinski said. “I know a lot of girls have the same mindset. [We’re] just kind of out for blood the second time around.”