Soccer faces crunch time as Big 12 season winds down

Freshman defender Emory Cason controls the ball and looks to pass against Northwestern State in a match at Betty Lou Mays Soccer Field on Aug. 25.  The Bears only have four matches remaining before the Big 12 tournament. Travis Taylor | Lariat Photo Editor
Freshman defender Emory Cason controls the ball and looks to pass against Northwestern State in a match at Betty Lou Mays Soccer Field on Aug. 25. The Bears only have four matches remaining before the Big 12 tournament.
Travis Taylor | Lariat Photo Editor
By Parmida Schahhosseini
Sports Writer

With only four more Big 12 games left for Baylor, the matchups occurring around the league will be important for the Big 12 Tournament seeding. The Bears will have to take care of business, but also keep an eye out for other teams.

“There’s no team you can take lightly,” sophomore forward Bri Campos said. Every game you go into, any team can really beat any team. We have to go into each game with the same mentality like you would against the Texas or the Tech or the Iowa State. They have to have the same mentality and you have to play just as hard for each game.”

Anybody can beat anybody in the Big 12 because no matter the sport, records are always thrown out the window. No. 11 West Virginia leads the way and is riding a seven-game winning streak on its way to a 5-0-0 Big 12 record. Kansas will have a tough task ahead as it tries to knock off the top team in the conference.

“I’ve seen everybody in the conference play, and I honestly don’t think there’s anybody we cannot beat, but we are not going to beat anybody if we don’t score some goals,” Kansas head coach Mark Francis said. “The way we are playing and competing is good, but right now that’s not enough.”

The Kansas Jayhawks (0-2-1) have struggled offensively and have not scored a goal in the last three matches. Senior forward Caroline Kastor leads the team with four goals and three assists while junior midfielder Jamie Fletcher puts pressure on defenses with her 43 shots. Prior to the three game goalless streak, the pressure put on by Fletcher was effective as it averaged two goals a game for the three games before the streak.

Kansas has a solid defense, but West Virginia’s potent offense can match up well because of how the disruptive forwards. The Mountaineers have scored 38 goals this season, eighth most in the NCAA. Senior forwards Kate Schwindel, who was honored offensive player of the week, and Frances Silva lead the team with 10 goals apiece. Silva also is third in NCAA with her 11 assists. West Virginia can win the regular season for the second year in a row if it takes care of business.

“There’s nothing like waiting to see what other teams do in conference play, so at this point, our plan is to control our own destiny and take care of what we can take care of,” Mountaineer coach Nikki Izzo-Brown said. “If we execute our plan, we should be good. We’re really taking this season game by game right now. What we have to do is take care of 90 minutes on Friday – that’s what is really important.

It will be emotional for West Virginia because of Senior Night, honoring Kara Blosser, Sarah Keane, Frances Silva and Caroline Szwed.

“Of course, we want to win for our seniors, too,” Izzo-Brown said. “There’s a lot Mountaineer pride that will hopefully come out and support what these four seniors have done for this program, this state and this university. These girls are pretty special.”

Another Big 12 matchup Baylor needs to look out for is Texas at Oklahoma State. Texas is second in the conference with a 4-1 record, with its lone loss coming against West Virginia. Texas has a stout backline and also has a height advantage, meaning that Oklahoma State must strengthen its game in the air.

Texas is playing well in all aspects of the game, with its defense leading the way. Junior midfielder Sharis Lachappelle’s two goals against Baylor led a three-way tie between sophomore forward Kelsey Shimmick and junior defender Brooke Gilbert. Texas has scored 26 goals this season, but its stout defense has kept the Longhorns in the game to pull out wins.

Gilbert, the Big 12 defensive player of the week, is coming off of a game where she led her defense to shutdown a solid Baylor offense for 86 minutes before junior forward Natalie Huggins scored a goal. Texas has given up 12 goals, but is still third in the Big 12 with an .80 goals against average and a .79 goals against average.

Oklahoma State does have an advantage playing at home, where the Longhorns carry a 3-4-2 record in Stillwater. The Cowgirls hold a 35-3-6 record at Cowgirl Soccer Complex since 2010, but are 2-2-2 at home this year, unable to capitalize on home turf.

Ranking second to last in shots taken, Oklahoma State needs to apply pressure on the Texas team in order to stay in the game. The team’s ability to generate goals has been affected because of the lack of opportunity. OSU ranks sixth in goals with 19, but it has given up 17 goals, making it harder to consistently win games.

The Cowgirls are going to need production from the team to continue generating offense. The underclassmen have come up big for Oklahoma State with freshman forward Courtney Dike leading the way with eight goals and two assists and sophomore forward Allie Stephenson’s five goals and three assists. Only three other players have scored for the Cowgirls, two freshmen and three sophomores. The senior class will need to step up its game offensively to give the team the chance to win.

Oklahoma State has led the Big 12 in shutouts in five of the last seven seasons, but ranks last this year tied with Oklahoma for three shutouts. The defense has allowed more shots on goal than it has taken. The defense has been susceptible to pressure, so the Longhorns can take advantage and pull away with a win.

The Cowgirls’ in-state rival Oklahoma has struggled in the Big 12 with a 0-4 conference record and 3-10-1 overall. The Sooners will travel to Fort Worth to take on TCU, which is coming off its first Big 12 win of the season after a 1-0 victory against Kansas.

Both teams have struggled offensively, but Oklahoma isn’t doing itself any favors by giving up almost double the number of goals scored. The offense has only been able to generate 15 goals this season and ranks last in every major Big 12 category. TCU has had problems offensively, but by applying enough pressure it can score.

The Sooners offensive ineptitude combined with defense leaves a lot to be desired, but junior forward Daisy Cardona is doing her best to get a win by leading her team with four goals. Freshman defender Madison Saliba is the only other player to score more than two goals. The team has only scored four goals in its last five games, but TCU given up seven goals in its last five games, and only scored two goals in its last five games.

If Oklahoma can put enough pressure on the defense it can come away with a win, but it needs to shore up its defense to prevent TCU from getting goals to the back of the net.

TCU gets most of its production from its two main goal scorers, freshman forward Michelle Prokof, who leads the team with seven goals, and Makenzie Koch, who is second with four goals. The five remaining scorers have only scored a combined six goals.

No. 18 Texas Tech (3-0-2) has a bye, but it has also made noise in the Big 12 as the second unbeaten left. The Red Raiders have a potent offense, scoring 38 goals to go along with the best defense in the Big 12.

Texas Tech posts a .36 goals against average .38 goals allowed, allowing only six goals this season.

It ranks first in the Big 12 in shutouts with 12, but ranks last in saves because of the stout backline. Offensively the Red Raiders have had success because of effective committee scoring.

Sophomore forward Janine Beckie leads the team with six goals and four assists and sophomore midfielder Alli Murphy following with five goals and three assists.

Nine other players on the team have contributed with two or more goals.

The competition is stiff in the Big 12, but Baylor can’t worry about other teams. All it can do is take care of business and the rest will take care of itself.