By Adam Gibson | Sports Writer
Baylor soccer heads into the start of Big 12 play this weekend as the Bears face No. 11 Texas at 7 p.m. Friday in Austin.
The Bears are coming off back-to-back home shutouts, one of which knocked off then-No. 23 Butler and closed non-conference play. The Bears are going to face their first real test of the season on the road against the highest ranked team they have faced so far.
With the help of tough out-of-conference play, head coach Paul Jobson said the team has learned a great amount about where the gaps are in play and is more prepared now.
“I think we’re in a really good place,” Jobson said. “We had an extremely tough non-conference schedule, and I think we really stepped up to the challenge. We don’t have a bad loss on our schedule. And I think that our losses really taught us a lot about ourselves and who we are and really made great strides from those losses.”
Texas has yet to lose a game on the season and is 6-0 at home. Their only non-win came from a tie with North Carolina. Both Texas and Baylor have offensive power and are tied for the lead in goals scored in the Big 12, with both at 24 this season.
During Jobson’s tenure with the Bears, the team stands 2-3-1 against the Longhorns and Jobson said, just like every other year, they have an explosive offense and will prove to be one of the top contenders throughout Big 12 play.
“They’re a really good team, talented, very well-coached, organized; they’ve got a lot of soccer savvy,” Jobson said. “They’re very opportunistic and their goal-scorers are hot right now. So, they’re a really good team and we’re going to see that game after game in the Big 12. But, it’s tough to go through the non-conference season without a loss, and they’ve played some good teams.”
Freshman midfielder Giuliana Cunningham has four goals on the season, two of which came in the last two games of non-conference play. Cunningham, like Jobson, said the team has become stronger through recent games but still has to focus on playing their best game for the entirety of the match.
“I think that we’re pretty resilient and we can persevere through tough games, and it will help us go forward with a lot of resilience,” Cunningham said. “We definitely want to be consistent, especially going into the Big 12 … I think the full 90 [minutes] is what we’re trying to focus on.”
Junior defender Audrey Johnston is entering her third season with Baylor and knows just how challenging Big 12 play can be. Since they are opening in Austin against Texas, Johnston said the Bears’ mindset is to focus on Texas since it is important that they get off to a strong start and continue their win streak.
“I think it’s just to take one game at a time and one day at a time. So, the next game, which is Texas, is our most important, as Coach says,” Johnston said. “I think Texas is the most important game we have.”
As Baylor heads to Austin, they face a team who has a record of 12-8-2 all-time in conference openers. Baylor will attempt to notch another loss in that column for the Longhorns Friday night.