By Ben Everett | Sports Writer
Baylor soccer faces No. 10-ranked Texas at 7 p.m. today at Betty Lou Mays Field in the last home game of the season.
The Bears (10-3-2, 4-2-1) have won three straight games while the Longhorns (12-1-2, 4-1-2) have tied or lost three of their last four games.
Baylor defeated Texas Tech 3-0 at home on Oct. 6 before taking down Kansas and Kansas State 1-0 each on the road last weekend.
Freshman goalkeeper Jennifer Wandt said the Bears are always confident in their game and that back-to-back road wins are good for momentum.
“I think we’ve stayed steady in terms of our confidence,” Wandt said. “But two wins on the road has helped going into this week.”
Baylor head coach Paul Jobson said the Bears have to be careful not to be too confident.
“It gives you some confidence, but you also have to be a little bit cautious that you’re not overconfident,” Jobson said. “We’re trying to keep things in check. Things are going really well and you’ve just got to stay sharp and stay healthy and that’s kind of the focus here near the end.”
The Bears, who haven’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2012, are currently ranked No. 54 in Ratings Percentage Index.
RPI is a measure used by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee to assess the strength of the teams.
If the Bears do not win the conference tournament to receive an automatic bid, they hope to be one of the 33 at-large bids selected.
Jobson said the game against Texas and the road matchup against TCU could potentially push the Bears higher up the board.
“Both of our next games for sure,” Jobson said. “Both have great winning percentages and that will do nothing but pull up your RPI if you can pull out the victory.”
The Bears sit at fifth in the Big 12 Conference standings and have already qualified for the Big 12 Tournament. They finished fifth last year and were not rewarded with an NCAA Tournament bid.
Jobson said the team has goals beyond making the Big 12 Tournament, but the Longhorns are the teams’ main focus right now.
“We’ve got some big goals,” Jobson said. “We don’t talk a lot about them, but we’ve qualified for the [Big 12] Tournament, so we know that. But other than that, forget about it. It’s all about UT right now.”
The Bears will have the added support from alumni coming in for Baylor’s homecoming weekend.
Jobson said Baylor tries to approach each game the same way, but with the magnitude of the matchup and the homecoming weekend festivities, its hard not to think this game is special.
“We approach the game the same way no matter who the opponent is,” Jobson said. “I do know this one is a little bit special because it is UT. They are a nationally ranked program this year. To have that at home over homecoming with what we think will be a great crowd is pretty special.”
Baylor’s biggest strength this season is defense. Since a 2-1 loss to West Virginia on Sept. 22, the Bears have only allowed one goal in six games.
Last week, senior defender Precious Akanyirige earned Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors while Wandt was awarded Big 12 Freshman of the Week.
The Bears are led on offense by senior midfielder Aline De Lima who leads the team with four goals and two assists on the season. Junior forward Jackie Crowther is second on the team with three goals while also contributing two assists, but is out for the season due to injury.
The Longhorns went 8-9-1 last season, but are much improved due to younger players leading the way.
Jobson said this is a completely different Texas team than a year ago.
“They’ve got some great young players,” Jobson said. “They had some success early and there’s been a lot of belief. They’ve got some dangerous players. They are definitely a different team than they were last year.”
Sophomore forward Cyera Hintzen leads the Longhorns on offense with seven goals and five assists while freshman midfielder Haley Berg has five goals.
Following the matchup with Texas, Baylor faces TCU at 7 p.m. Oct. 27 in Fort Worth.