By Adam Gibson | Sports Writer
Baylor soccer kicked off its regular season with a 2-0 win against Abilene Christian University (ACU) Aug. 16 at Betty Lou Mays Field in Waco.
The Bears had their first test of the regular season against ACU where they got off to a hot start offensively, getting four shots off in the first 17 minutes of the match and winning 2-0. Baylor midfielder Julie James got the shooting started for the Bears just four minutes in that ended up rolling left of the goal. Forward Raegan Padgett then came back with the Bears first shot on goal of the evening, which ACU keeper Erin Smith saved.
At the end of the half, Baylor finished with seven shots and two shots on goal. Baylor’s defense also kept ACU from reaching the back of the net, leaving them with two shots and one shot on goal going into the half.
The Bears finally broke through to score in the 59th minute off an assist by senior forward Jackie Crowther, which freshman midfielder Maddie Algya headed into the back-right corner for her first goal of the season. Algya emphasized that scoring her first goal of her career “felt pretty great,” especially since she was also starting the match.
To end the match, freshman forward Taylor Moon secured the Bear’s victory with a chip shot over the keeper’s head for her first goal of the season, which increased the lead to 2-0. Moon, while feeling the nerves from her first start like Algya, was happy to put what the team had been training for into action.
“I was really excited because my team just feels like a family, and I was excited to finally get on the field with them, because we’ve been training so hard for this,” Moon said. “And also, I was nervous, because I’m playing against girls that are three and four years older than me.”
The Bears defense held the Wildcats to only four shots, with just two on goal, both of which were saved. Head coach Paul Jobson was proud of the keepers efforts, securing the win for the Bears while keeping up a zero on the scoreboard.
“They both did a good job,” Jobson said. “They both had to make a save tonight. We only had two, so every save was big-time. It keeps you in the game, so I was proud of what they did. They were both solid back there.”
The Bears tied Sam Houston State University 1-1 in an exhibition game on Aug. 10 where they had many opportunities to take the win but were unable to capitalize. Jobson knows that while this first scrimmage was only the beginning of the season for Baylor, it’s also about finding what kind of team the Bears will be and focusing on setting up the basics in order for the team to be successful.
“One, I’m just looking for making sure we are true to our identity of being a team that works harder than any other team,” Jobson said. Two other points of focus going into the season for Jobson were communication as well as being a fit team.
When it came to the personality, Jobson said the team started to pick back up where they left off last season even though it seemed like it might take a while to find out who they really are.
“Fortunately this group came in prepared,” Jobson said. “So we saw the identity come through pretty early on, which was fantastic because we said even in our first meeting we don’t know who we are yet and after that night and the next day we really started to figure out who we were.”
Going into the start of the season, finding the character of the team is not the only thing the Bears look for. Crowther said it is important to find that identity but also to find out how the team is mentally and what their thought process is so early on.
“Mentality is always one thing that we definitely want to see,” Crowther said. “Just kind of come out and no matter who it is, no matter where you are, give it your all.”
In the scrimmage against SHSU, Jobson saw his team get off to a strong, encouraging start. While there were obviously things the team still had to fix, Jobson said he was happy to witness the teammates bonding and growing together as a whole squad, rather than as individuals.
“I think it was a really good test for us and we saw some really good things,” Jobson said. “We saw some partnerships starting to form with some of our young players and veterans, which was really fun to see,” along with different parts of the game the team needs to “sharpen up.”
The Bears return to action against the Samford Bulldogs August 19 at 7 p.m. in Waco.