Video by Christina Soto | Broadcast Reporter, Story by Nathan Keil | Sports Editor
For 95 minutes, Baylor soccer was every bit as good as No. 5 West Virginia.
But in the 96th minute, senior defender Amandine Pierre-Louis sent a rocket free kick toward the left corner of the net, past the outstretched hands of freshman goalkeeper Jennifer Wandt and into the net, giving West Virginia a 2-1 win at Betty Lou Mays Field Friday night.
Baylor head coach Paul Jobson said that this effort proves the Bears can compete with the best teams in the country.
“Definitely proud of the girls, definitely proud of the effort. I think we showed that we can play with anybody in the country tonight,” Jobson said. “And as that game went on, it really could have gone either way. Yeah, I think they put it to us early. It wasn’t that we were up for the match, but they’re a great team. I think we weathered the storm a little bit, realized we could play, found kind of our groove and went after them. I was proud of the effort from our girls.”
For most of the night, Wandt had West Virginia’s number, repeatedly denying the high octane Mountaineers’ offense that managed 19 shots against the Bears.
But in the 88th minute, senior forward Heather Kaleiohi found the back of the net off the assist from junior forward Sh’Nia Gordon to give West Virginia a 1-0 lead with less than two minutes left.
Baylor didn’t panic. Instead it kept its cool and with 34 seconds left, senior midfielder Alina De Lima headed a ball over West Virginia sophomore goalkeeper Rylee Foster to tie the game and send it to overtime.
De Lima said she didn’t have time to think about whether to use her head or not, but she simply had to react and make a play.
“I think it was just instinct. When we practice I’m not good on the headers at all. I felt like when I saw the ball come over and I found the opening,” De Lima said. “It was a great ball from Sarah [King]. It was in the right spot and I got it over the goalkeeper with my head. That was a great goal. To come back and go into overtime is a really good feeling.”
West Virginia opened the game as the aggressor, looking for shots early and often. Piere-Louis got a free look in the opening minute of play but was denied by Wandt. A few minutes later it was senior forward Michaela Abam, who averages five shots per game, that tested Wandt’s resolve in the net, but Wandt denied her as well.
But as West Virginia kept the pressure up on the offensive end, Baylor equaled that intensity on the defensive end. Wandt recorded four saves in the opening period, including two off the foot of Abam.
As the first half went on, Baylor did manage a few opportunities of its own. In the 13th minute, sophomore forward Raegan Padgett split the double team with a shot and snuck it through on the deflection, but Foster slid out from her spot in the goal to end the threat.
In the 36th minute, following a corner kick from junior forward Jackie Crowther, De Lima fired a laser into the teeth of the West Virginia defense, but the shot was deflected over the net.
After 54 minutes of scoreless soccer, West Virginia had its best opportunity of the game. Gordon made a few nifty ball-handling moves to make her way behind the Baylor defensive line. She fired toward the left post but Wandt made the save, the rebound gave Abam an open net but she sailed the shot wide left.
Baylor then began to assert its offensive will, getting seven shots and six corner kicks in the second half. In the 78th minute, the Bears had three consecutive corner kicks, all which were deflected away, blocked, or turned away by Foster.
Wandt finished with seven saves and Foster finished with two for the Mountaineers.
Jobson said that Wandt continues to be a major strength of the team.
“Jen was fantastic tonight,” Jobson said. “She proved tonight, and she’s made some big saves all season. But, she stepped up to the call every time tonight, and did a great job in the back for us.”
Baylor (6-2-1) has a quick turnaround, as it will host Iowa State (2-7-1) at 1 p.m. Sunday.
For Jobson and the Bears, they cannot afford to let the sting of defeat linger longer than tonight.
“We’ve got to move forward, we don’t have a choice. Or no one’s going to believe that we can compete at that level,” Jobson said. “If we go into the next match and we lay an egg, then we haven’t proven anything. This match will mean absolutely nothing. So, they’ve got to continue what they’ve been doing, which is showing up every day to play.”