By Adam Gibson | Sports Writer
Baylor soccer defeated No. 23 Butler 2-0 Thursday night at Betty Lou Mays Soccer Field.
The Bears came into the match with a home record of 3-0 on the season, outscoring opponents 14-1. The match was the highest-ranked opponent Baylor has faced thus far, with the Bulldogs ranked at No. 23 in the United Soccer Coaches Poll going into Thursday night.
Baylor head coach Paul Jobson said the team has been focused on the importance of non-conference play. The out-of-conference games provide experience, Jobson said, and it’s even better when the team can get the victory.
“It’s huge and we have been talking about it all non-conference season,” Jobson said. “These are the matches that are going to prepare us for conference and it has given us a good sense of who we are and who we want to be. We have not met the challenge every time we have stepped on field, but it feels good to be able to do that tonight.”
Butler got the shooting started for the match, getting four shots off in the first 15 minutes, but could not find a way to challenge Baylor sophomore keeper Jennifer Wandt, with all four shots being off target. The Bears got their first shot off in the 19th minute from sophomore midfielder Emily Bunnell, which rolled just left of the goal.
The Bears were the first to break the scoreless half when, in the 37th minute, freshman defender Giuliana Cunningham knocked a shot to the left of Luedtke after a cross from senior forward Jackie Crowther snuck through the defenders to Cunningham.
Cunningham notched her first goal of the season Thursday and said she was happy to give the team a lead over a strong team right before halftime.
“I was glad that I was able to fight through the players and just be determined enough to score the goal for our team and put us up so we could have a better position going in at the end of the half,” Cunningham said.
After a physical first half from the Bears, the teams went into the locker room with Baylor holding a one-goal lead off six shots. Butler only managed to get one of its five shots on goal.
Coming out for the start of the second half, junior forward Raegan Padgett and the Bears picked up right where they left off at half with a chip-shot goal that escaped sophomore keeper Leonie Doege’s reach for the second goal of the match and Padgett’s third of the season.
The physical play also picked up with a total of four fouls committed by both teams within 10 minutes of play.
Through 35 minutes, Baylor’s defense continued to hold Butler from reaching the back of the net after the Bulldogs had five shots in the second half and 10 in the game going into the final 10 minutes.
Jobson said the defense performed well considering the talent they were facing in Butler and not only did they hold Butler so well, but they did it for the entire match.
“Defensively, I thought we did really well,” Jobson said. “The challenge for tonight’s game was to see if we could put it together for 90 minutes and I felt that we were able to do that. With our goal keepers, we try to make sure they don’t have to do a whole lot and when they have to, they can go out and make a great save. I think with the way the defense played tonight we were able to do that.”
The Bears’ offense finished with nine shots, five on goal, while Butler led with 11 shots with just one on goal. Padgett said the win over a ranked team before Big 12 play is hard to achieve but important for gaining confidence.
“We believe we’ve lost a couple games against great teams just like this that were definitely winnable,” Padgett said. “And we were just looking to complete a game, play a full 90 minutes — not 45, not half of a half. So, I really think we did that today, and I think it’s really good for us to finally complete that before going into Big 12 next week, so, we’re excited.”
With the win Thursday night, Baylor’s home record moved to 5-0 as they head into the final match of non-conference play against the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley at 2 p.m. Sunday at Betty Lou Mays Soccer Field.