By Adam Gibson | Sports Writer
Baylor soccer closed out its non-conference schedule against the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) with a 2-0 win Sunday afternoon at Betty Lou Mays Field.
Head coach Paul Jobson and the Bears finished non-conference play with an undefeated home record, including back-to-back shutouts. Jobson said the team was able to correct many aspects of the game through the non-conference schedule.
“It’s huge. Coming out of Arizona, we’ve talked about it,” Jobson said. “There’s some things we needed to correct or focus on and figure out and I think that these two games were where we were going to do it or we weren’t and I think we did and it gives us a lot of momentum going into Austin next week.”
Sophomore keeper Jennifer Wandt was tested early in the match after having to run back to make a leaping block on a high, looping shot from junior forward Diana Ansah 12 minutes into the game. Baylor soon got its best chance through 17 minutes when senior midfielder Julie James missed her shot just wide right of the goal off of a corner kick from sophomore midfielder Emily Bunnell.
Wandt said the Vaqueros caught her out of position but she was able to make it back in time and was glad to keep the Vaqueros from scoring.
“In games that happens a lot if they turn and I’m off my line, but I’m happy I could make the save early on for my team and they could take it from there and I didn’t have to save anything else after that,” Wandt said. “I’m just happy I could keep my team in the game like that.”
Sophomore midfielder Ally Henderson got her chance for her first goal of the season from just outside the box with the shot going just high of the crossbar. Just two minutes later, Henderson had her second shot of the day in the middle of the box, this one on target for the left side of goal, but it was blocked.
The draw finally broke with 13 minutes left to go in the half after freshman defender Giuliana Cunningham headed in a corner kick from senior forward Jackie Crowther to the back left of the net, putting the Bears up 1-0.
Crowther said her part in setting up a goal off corner kicks is just to place the ball where the players are going to be to help them find the net.
“For me personally, my job is to hit a good ball, but I know where the runs are going,” Crowther said. “So they consistently make those runs and I consistently know where they’re going, and we find a way to put in. We know where we’re all going to be, so we just have a find a way to connect it.”
Closing out the half, Baylor managed to hold the Vaqueros to only three shots with just one on goal that was saved by Wandt. The Bears had three shots on goal out of the 12 attempts and had eight corner kicks which help set them up.
James took the first free kick of the match after a foul from UTRGV set up the kick just outside the box but the try lifted high of the bar. In the 70th minute, junior forward Raegan Padgett netted her third goal of the season after landing her shot in the left of the goal past freshman keeper Maile Lunardi to give the Bears a 2-0 lead.
The match got more physical in the second half with a total of eight fouls committed through the 68th minute. Junior defender Danielle Hayden received the Bears’ first red card of the season after a rough slide tackle just outside the Baylor box in attempt to clear the ball. Hayden had to leave the match and will miss the Big 12 opener against Texas. Her red card gave UTRGV an advantage by leaving Baylor to play a player down for the rest of the match.
Jobson said the strategy of game did have to change to account for playing with only 10 on the field and the team was able to adjust to it.
“You’re playing numbers down and you have to reorganize it a little bit,” Jobson said. “We had a two goal lead that we needed to preserve on a hot day, so it makes things a little bit different. Kids had to play different roles, but it was definitely something that we probably could have handled a little bit better and I think as we went through it, we realized and actually played a little bit better through it.”
The Bears head into their first conference match of the season against Texas at 7 p.m. Friday in Austin.