Soccer roundup: Parity makes for exciting Big 12 conference slate

Big12_Conference_2.FullColor_Simplified OBy Jeffrey Swindoll
Sports Writer

Kansas Jayhawks (11-1, 2-0-0)

After dealing Baylor its first home loss of the season on Friday, and becoming the first team to score at all against the Bears’ notoriously rock solid defense, the Jayhawks have flexed their offensive muscles. KU forward Liana Salazar was named Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week after scoring the lone goal against the Bears on Friday, which moved her into a tie for the Big 12 lead. On top of all that, the Jayhawks are 2-0 in the Big 12 and have only one loss in the entire season.

West Virginia (8-2-2, 1-0-1)
The Mountaineers were unanimously voted as the top dog of the Big 12 in the preseason coaches poll and have won the Big 12 Championship the last two seasons. They hit a bump in the road with a 0-0 tie against TCU, but rebounded with a 2-0 win against a Texas team fresh off an upset win over the undefeated Texas Tech Red Raiders.

Texas Tech (10-1, 0-1-0)
The Red Raiders dropped their first game of the season in Austin against Texas, but loss is the lone blemish on Tech’s otherwise excellent 2014 season. The Red Raiders may be prone to an upset from a disciplined team like Texas, but Tech is favored by many to be in serious contention for the conference championship this season. Tech has won 23 of their last 24 matches in regular season play, a program best for the Red Raiders.

Baylor (7-4-1, 1-1-0)
The Bears suffered their first loss at home to the Jayhawks Friday night in a strong showing that fell just short. Baylor dominated chances and possession against Kansas, arguably the best in the conference, and looked the more threatening team in the second half of that game. Baylor’s impressive effort continued that weekend with a 2-0 win against conference rival Iowa State on Sunday. The team’s selflessness highlights the Bears’ ability to win games even without apparent ‘star power’ in their lineup.

Texas (6-4-2, 1-1-0)
It’s difficult to really tell how good or bad all these teams matchup against each other with just one weekend of conference play in the books. Between Baylor, Texas and TCU there is not much to separate the teams other than their pending matches, scheduled later on in the schedule. Texas has shown spunk here and there this season, but their biggest win came last weekend against Texas Tech. Though considered underdogs in that match and most matchups they are scheduled to face this season, the Longhorns showed they are not a team that the rest of the conference can look past right now.

TCU (7-4-1, 0-1-1)
The Horned Frogs haven’t won a Big 12 game yet this season and are coming off of two challenging matches last weekend. TCU faced two of the best teams in the conference in Kansas and West Virginia. TCU was able to hold defending champion West Virginia on Friday to a 0-0 stalemate, but were shutout at home against Kansas. The Horned Frogs debatabley have their hardest conference matches at the front of the schedule, all in one weekend, but still are lacking on the offensive side when coming against a good defensive team like Kansas.

Oklahoma (6-3-2, 0-0)
Although they have not played a conference game yet, the Sooners have a pre-conference season that shows promise for their Big 12 campaign this year. In a preseason exhibition in August the Sooners beat their in-state and conference rival Oklahoma State 2-0. It was a preseason match to test the waters for some players, but it carries some significance and shows that they have a bit of an upper hand over OSU and possibly other conference foes.

Oklahoma State (6-6-0, 1-0)
By beating Iowa State 1-0, the Cowgirls showed they may not have the most clinical or productive offense in the league. OSU fails to show up in the Big 12’s top five players listed in assists per game and goals per game. The Cowgirls have won six straight at home, but their substantial lack in goals exposes a clear weakness of the team. If the opponent scores a goal in the match, OSU’s chance of winning plummets down. The Cowgirls have scored more than one goal in only three matches this season, and haven’t scored more than two goals in any of their matches in 2014.

Iowa State (6-6-0, 0-2-0)
Lacking in offensive firepower, aside from Koree Willer who is currently tied for the league lead in goals, Iowa State struggled against Baylor to involve more players in the attack on Sunday. The Cyclones have not been successful in evenly yoking the offensive load amongst their players. With only one shot on goal in the entire match against Baylor, Iowa State’s offense does not hold up with the rest of the league’s ability to score or create legitimate offensive chances.