By Jeffrey Swindoll
Not much was expected of No. 7 Baylor soccer at the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City, Kan. this week, but the Bears did the unexpected. Baylor beat Oklahoma State, the top-seeded team in their bracket, 1-0 Wednesday night.
The one-goal score line does not quite tell the story of this soccer match. Despite just one goal being scored in 90 minutes of play, the game had energy from the players and excitement from the fans all the way through.
Controversially, two Baylor goals were called off in the first half. Oklahoma State even hit the crossbar in the second half. Both goalkeepers were tested. The Bears fired off 11 shots and four were on goal. The Cowgirls cranked out 23 shots, also with four on goal.
Baylor thought they broke the deadlock very early in the match. Freshman forward Precious Akanyirige got her head on the end of a free kick from senior forward Justine Hovden on the left sideline. Akanyirige’s header fizzed toward the goalie, who parried the ball down but did not get full possession of the ball in her grasp. Junior midfielder Bri Campos stuck her foot in when she saw the ball loose under the goalie. The ball crossed the goal line on Campos’ stab. The Bears began to celebrate, but the head official called off the goal, saying Campos’ goal was a violation of the goalie’s possession of the ball within the six-yard box.
Baylor continued to knock on the door in the first half, mostly from set pieces. Senior midfielder Alexa Wilde drove a ball with her head toward the upper corner of the goal from Hovden’s corner kick. OSU’s goalkeeper made a great diving save to deny Baylor the go-ahead goal.
The Bears’ persistent pressure in the first half suffocated the Cowgirls’ defense. Eventually the goal came on a set piece – something the Bears have made a distinct advantage for themselves in conference play this season.
Junior defender Katie Daigle notched yet another assist. For the most part, Daigle earns her assists with her long leg on free kicks. This time, Daigle got the assist with a throw-in. Daigle flung the ball into the goal box, the ball glided over an OSU defender and the ball fell to sophomore substitute Jordan Hatler. Her one shot of the game found the back of the net. It ended up being the difference, but the Bears still had to weather the second half storm from the Cowgirls.
The Bears nearly went up by two in the first half. For the second time, Bri Campos was disallowed a goal she scored. On this occasion, she was offside. The Cowgirls came storming back with some decent chances in the second half, including the aforementioned shot of theirs that hit the post. Baylor goalkeeper Michelle Kloss made four saves in her shutout performance.
“We’ve had a ton of adversity this year – broken legs, ACLs – a lot of injuries,” Baylor co-head coach Marci Jobson said. “But I’m so proud of these girls. Every team in this conference is fabulous. So, right now, it’s about our players being able to recover, get our bodies back underneath us and get ready for the next match.”
Baylor’s upset over Oklahoma State was the second match in a row that saw the lower-seeded team win the match. On the other side of the bracket, No. 5 Texas clinched a semi-final spot after a tight match with No. 4 Texas Tech that ended 1-1 after 90 minutes of play. The Longhorns sealed the deal with a 2-1 win in the shoot out after two 10-minute overtime periods.
“It’s a hard way to win or lose a match, in dramatic fashion,” Texas head coach Angela Kelly said. “I’m just really proud of our team and the battle, in how far they’ve come, how much they’ve grown and how much they believe in one another. That’s how you ultimately win championships, is in believing. Happy to see our team see it through and to see all our players smile.”
No. 1 West Virginia took care of business against TCU with a decisive 2-1 win. TCU’s only goal of the match came from a penalty kick awarded to the Horned Frogs late in the second half. Other than the penalty kick, the Mountaineers dominated the match with their athleticism and tactical superiority.
“This is a huge win,” said Mountaineer coach Nikki Izzo-Brown. “Again, we had to play a frustrating five-back system, but the girls displayed tremendous patience and broke TCU down. It wasn’t easy to do what we did, so I’m very proud of this team’s resiliency. We found a way to win.”
The Bears will face the No. 6-seed Sooners at 8 p.m. Friday night in one of the tournament’s semifinal matches. The Sooners are coming off a 2-1 victory over the No. 3-seed (nationally ranked No. 18) Kansas Jayhawks.