Soccer faces Texas in opener of Big 12 tournament

Baylor senior midfielder Aline De Lima battles for the ball against a Texas defender. The Bears will meet the Longhorns in the opening round of the Big 12 tournament at 2 p.m. on Wednesday. Jessica Hubble | Multimedia Journalist

By Ben Everett | Sports Writer

Baylor soccer faces No. 8-ranked and No. 4-seeded Texas in the Big 12 Conference Championship at 2 p.m. Wednesday in Kansas City, Mo.

The Bears (10-5-2, 4-4-1) earned the No. 5 seed in the conference tournament after an up-and-down season that saw Baylor drop four overtime games.

All four teams that the Bears lost to in conference play sit above them in the Big 12 standings.

Head coach Paul Jobson said that because the team is full of veterans, they have not been fazed by the close losses.

“We’re a veteran team; we understand that’s the way it works sometimes,” Jobson said. “I think if we were a younger team, we would’ve been broken weeks ago.”

One of those overtime losses came on Oct. 20 to Texas. In that game, the Bears out-shot the Longhorns 20-9, despite losing 1-0 in overtime.

Freshman goalkeeper Jennifer Wandt said the team is looking forward to a second chance at taking down Texas.

“I think second chance is a good word for it,” Wandt said. “I think when we played them the first time we got a lot of shots on goal and our defense was strong, so I think if we put one away and stay strong on defense we can come out with a win.”

A win against Texas would help the Bears in terms of Ratings Percentage Index. RPI is a stat used by the NCAA Selection Committee to determine the teams that make the postseason.

Jobson said a win against Texas, a team they feel they are better than, could help their NCAA Tournament chances.

“We felt like last time we played them we were the better team; we just didn’t come away with the result,” Jobson said. “So to have an opportunity to go after them again is nice. But secondly, it’s a great RPI builder. If we can come out with a win, it’s going to help our RPI and help our chances of making the NCAA Tournament.”

The Bears look toward their All-Big 12 midfielders, junior Julie James and senior Aline De Lima, to lead them on offense.

De Lima leads the team with four goals and three assists, while James has two goals and two assists on the season.

The Baylor defense has only given up nine goals this season and is headed by senior defender Precious Akanyirige, who earned All-Big 12 First Team honors with James and De Lima.

The Longhorns are led by a young duo in sophomore forward Cyera Hintzen and freshman midfielder Haley Berg.

Hintzen has seven goals and five assists while Big 12 Freshman of the Year Berg has five goals and two assists.

Jobson said the team’s final goal is to make it through the tournament and win and receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament so that they are not subject to a committee’s rankings.

“Our goal is to win the tournament,” Jobson said. “If we do that, we take care of our own destiny and don’t have to worry about a committee, so that’s ultimately what we’d like to do.”

If the Bears win, they will play either Oklahoma or Oklahoma State on Friday in Kansas City.