By Jeffrey Swindoll
The pre-conference season has come to a close for Big 12 soccer teams. The league has been known for its parity over the years, and is once again strong this season.
Eight of the nine teams boast a winning record after approximately nine games played by each team. It’s a long road to a Big 12 Conference Championship – a prize the Bears claimed just three seasons ago.
The Big 12’s soccer format is like that of the football format; teams play each other once in the regular season, alternating home and away position each season. The regular season serves as a means for seeding for November’s Big 12 Tournament.
This week, we recap each of the teams’ matches earlier in the season and current standing heading into conference competition.
Texas Tech (9-0)
Ranked at No. 6 in the nation, the Red Raiders are a shutdown defensive team. Sophomore goalkeeper Lauren Watson leads a Red Raider defense that has posted five shutouts in just nine matches.
The Red Raiders have also pulled off a few impressive wins along the way, including a 2-1 win over Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. and Cal-Berkeley in California. Both of those teams were ranked in the top 20 in the country at the time, highlighting an impressive start. The Red Raiders are heavily favored in this weekend’s match against Texas in Austin.
Technically behind Texas Tech in the standings right now because Tech cancelled a game early in the season, Kansas has just one loss to its name and a perfect 7-0 record at home. Marquette dealt Kansas its only loss of the season, and the Golden Eagles also upset SEC power Louisiana State earlier this season.
In contrast to their perfect home record, the Jayhawks have only one win on the road this season. Their consistency on the road will be tested this weekend with two games in three days in Texas against Baylor and TCU. The Bears are undefeated at home and the Horned Frogs are 3-2 at home.
West Virginia (7-2-1)
The two-time defending Big 12 conference champions, entering their third season a part of the Big 12, the Mountaineers were heavily favored in the preseason coaches vote as No. 1 in the conference this season. West Virginia is expected to be a powerhouse in the Big 12 for the third straight year. The Mountaineers are ranked No. 13 in the country, scoring on average 2.78 goals per game.
The Horned Frogs are currently on wild six-game winning streak, outscoring their opponents 11-2 in that span. The Horned Frogs are capable of scoring multiple goals and keeping off the board in matches, but their stiffest competition in the Big 12 has come sooner than any of the team’s on the schedule this season. The Horned Frogs play No. 13 West Virginia and No. 16 Kansas come to Fort Worth this weekend for the first week of Big 12 play.
The Bears have had a season of ups and downs so far. Baylor co-head coach Marci Jobson said the team saw just how good and bad they can be on any given day after the team’s first 10 matches. They have gone toe-to-toe with some of the best, beating BYU in Utah and holding tight in a 1-0 loss to Notre Dame.
The Bears have defended their home turf this season with a 4-0-1 record, only tying their most recent match to a scrappy Oral Roberts team. The fitness of the Bears was challenged with two overtime games in their last three matches. The Bears have two matches lined up this weekend against one of conference’s best – Kansas – and one of the conference’s dark horse teams: Iowa State.
Iowa State (6-4)
Iowa State has faced some decent competition in 2014, including a match against USC that ended 1-3. Since then, the Cyclones have won four straight. Two of those games were at home, including a rivalry match against the University of Iowa, and two of those wins were away.
The Cyclones travel a lot this weekend, playing in two states (Oklahoma and Texas). So far, they hold a 3-2 record on the road this season.
The Sooners started their season with a huge win over University of Florida, a national contender ranked No. 6 in the country at the time, and a contested loss to Florida State, another big time program that ranked No. 2 in the nation. Their record is just above .500 but the Sooners demonstrated their ability to grind out upsets against top-tier teams.
Oklahoma will be on a Big 12 bye week while the rest of the conference begins this weekend and look to overcome their two-game losing streak against in-state rival Oral Roberts.
Their record may not show it, but the Longhorns crushed many opponents this season with four shutouts and four matches scoring two or more goals. The Longhorns just snapped their three-game losing streak with a win over Texas State in San Marcos.
UT boasts a 2-1-1 record at home. Against another Texas team like Texas Tech this weekend, that home field advantage could wither away. Two of the conference’s harder teams travel to Austin to put the Longhorns to the test.
Oklahoma State (4-6)
Oklahoma State started the season on a six-game losing streak. The Cowgirls were able to dig themselves out of the hole though, responding with a four-game win streak ahead of conference play beginning this weekend.
OSU can focus on just one conference match this weekend. Dayton is also slated to play OSU on Sunday, but OSU will have the luxury of not having to play a conference opponent while most of the other Big 12 teams have significant matches on Friday and Saturday.