By Ben Everett | Sports Editor
Baylor soccer graduated All-Big 12 performers Precious Akanyirige and Aline De Lima from last year’s team, but two heralded freshmen are already helping to fill those voids.
Moon said receiving the award is humbling because of the freshmen talent in the conference.
“That’s such a huge honor because I know so many good freshmen that play in the Big 12,” Moon said. “It was just really cool that Maddie got the first week and I got the second week. People are recognizing our talents that we bring to Baylor and hopefully that can help us throughout the season.”
In opening weekend wins over ACU and Samford, Algya scored two goals and dished out two assists for a Big 12-leading six points in week one. Though the Bears went 1-1 last week, Moon assisted on the game-winning goal against Florida Atlantic to give her six total points throughout four games. Algya is second on the team in minutes with 344 and Moon has played 221 minutes so far.
Baylor head coach Paul Jobson said you take what you can get when it comes to freshmen because they all develop at different paces.
“We knew how talented they could be, but I always say you never know when freshmen come in, what they’re going to be able to do,” Jobson said. “I’ve had kids that I thought would come in and be starters right away, and they needed some time. I’ve had others that we didn’t think they’d factor in for a year or so, and they impacted on day one. I don’t have a crystal ball, I wish I did, but I sure am happy that those two have come on together and been able to contribute as quickly as they have.”
In addition to losing a defensive anchor in Akanyirige, the Bears graduated midfielder Caitlin Schwartz and center-midfielder Delanie Davis. With a chunk of the defense gone, the Bears needed reinforcements.
Sophomore midfielder Ally Henderson said the rebuild on defense has been a struggle, but the Bears have been able to piece things together so far.
“Who we graduated was pretty much our backline, so we had to start fresh this year,” Henderson said. “It was rough at the beginning. For any team trying to rebuild a whole position like that is a big deal, so I think we definitely made a lot of strides and worked on that a lot in practice.”
Moon and Algya have helped shore up the midfield rotation, while freshman defender Giuliana Cunningham has posted 23 minutes on defense and freshman forward Kayley Ables has seen a whopping 237 minutes of action upfront so far.
Moon said the freshman class all played at a high level before coming to Baylor, so they’re ready for the intensity of the college game.
“We all came from pretty good club teams, so we’re not completely used to [playing at this] level, but we’re close to it,” Moon said. “Once we got here it was a minor change, but we’ve definitely gotten more comfortable with practicing and the physicality and the speed of play.”
Henderson said the team knew this freshman class was talented, so their contributions haven’t been surprising.
“We’d heard a lot about them coming in,” Henderson said. “We knew they were going to be a talented class, so we were expecting them to be able to step up. What they’ve done is really great and has really helped us. It’s what we needed. We had big gaps to fill from the seniors we graduated last year, so they’ve been really able to step up and it’s been great.”
The Bears (3-1) finish up a three-game road trip when they face Arkansas at 7 p.m. Friday in Fayetteville, Ark.