Soccer ready to improve in 2014

Soccer vs. Cal Poly
Justine Hovden maneuvers past a Cal Poly defender. Baylor soccer defeated Cal Poly 4-0 at Betty Lou Mays Field on Friday, September 13, 2013.
Travis Taylor | Lariat File Photo

By Jeffrey Swindoll
Sports Writer

Last season came down to one game, possibly even one goal, senior goalkeeper Michelle Kloss said. It felt that close, which made being left out of the NCAA tournament a big disappointment for the team as a whole.

After winning its first Big 12 championship in 2012, and appearing in two of the last three NCAA tournaments, Baylor soccer is building up to be not only one of the conference’s best, but a national contender that can compete with any team at the college level.

“We want to go out, we want to do our best, we want to perform,” Kloss said. “We’ve set a standard for ourselves. We want to go off of last year and the foundation we have built and just do the best we can to make it as far as we’re able to make it.”

The blessing and curse for any team in any sport is coping with players gone from the past season and figuring out how to incorporate the new generation of players. On one hand, the continuity from last season is broken, but on the other hand, there is a fresh, clean slate for how the coaches can approach the team and game planning and a new set of players.

Rectifying the mistakes from last season will be crucial for Baylor soccer to accomplish something extraordinary this season, Kloss said. Last season was unanimously disappointing for the team, but not all of those players experienced the disappointment. Freshmen were not involved in dealing with not participating in NCAA postseason play. The freshmen have to be committed to improving that too, senior midfielder Alexa Wilde said.

Wilde said the team will improve best by taking every practice and putting edge and intensity into every practice.

This year, Baylor soccer’s roster has the full spectrum of player experience: six freshmen, six sophomores, one red-shirt sophomore, five juniors and five seniors. The diversity of experience could be the special thing about this team, Kloss said.

“Each year it’s so different and each year we have so many different factors. From who we lose and what freshman we gain — it’s so cool to come in each year and see who takes on what role. I think this year, even though we’re very young, we’re very strong in terms of leadership.”

At critical moments in the game, coaches are looking for certain players to change the game with their creativity, speed or skill; think of World Cup players like the Netherlands’ Arjen Robben or Argentina’s Lionel Messi.

It remains to be seen which players will satisfy the need for star power, but early on, Baylor fans should keep their eyes on junior forward Bri Campos. She is coming off national duty with the U-20 Mexican national team in the summer and was recently selected for the All-Big 12 preseason team.

Along with Campos, there are other rising talents on this team according to co-head coach Marci Jobson.

“Bri Campos is always a kid that’s going to do well for us,” Jobson said. “Ashleigh York is an up and rising star for us. I think Natalie Huggins is always a workhorse. Jordan Hatler has been out for two years, hasn’t really been able to play a year and a half. I think she’s looking really good.”

Fitness is an the team is already firing on all cylinders. On the team’s first training session back from summer vacation, every player passed the physical tests in flying colors. Jobson said the strength staff has the team in top shape.

If the Bears have one thing in their favor going into the season, it is their capability to close out games because of their physical discipline. Good conditioning can go a long way in a sport that requires so much running.

“We have exceptional people around our team just continuing to build them and motivate them,” Jobson said. “We technically are continuing to work on our game. A lot of the things we’re doing are very similar and continuing to keep chipping away at becoming a better program.”