Soccer’s successful weekend sets up showdown for Big 12 title

Story by Adam Gibson | Sports Writer, Video by Caroline Waterhouse | Broadcast Reporter

No. 13 Baylor soccer has the chance to clinch the Big 12 regular season title at 7 p.m. Thursday night against Oklahoma at Betty Lou Mays Field after back-to-back wins over Kansas State and Kansas this weekend.

On Friday, Baylor soccer took to a muddy pitch at the Highers Athletic Complex Football Practice Fields after a rainy week in Waco to face Kansas State.

Head coach Paul Jobson said Betty Lou Mays Field was completely covered in water and the team is grateful it was able to play on the football practice field because otherwise, the game would’ve been canceled altogether.

“If we don’t play here, we don’t get the game in tonight. We don’t have anywhere else to play and our field was underwater,” Jobson said. “So I really appreciate [Baylor football head coach Matt Rhule] and the athletic department for giving us an opportunity to play here … We obviously would rather be at Betty Lou, but to have a backup like that, it’s a pretty nice backup.”

The Wildcat offense got started early with junior forward Katie Cramer testing Baylor sophomore keeper Jennifer Wandt with the first shot on goal of the match, which Wandt saved. Baylor was not far behind on getting in on the offensive side of the ball, with senior midfielder Kennedy Brown shooting on target in the 17th minute. Brown led the team in the first half with three shots, two of which were on target.

Sophomore defender Sarah Norman had a chance to create a scoring opportunity, taking a free kick from 10 yards inside the midfield line, but the Bears failed to score. The Baylor defense contained the Kansas State offense, keeping the Wildcats from getting any more scoring chances.

Junior forward Camryn Wendlandt scored the first goal for the match after dribbling past defenders to net the goal over Kansas State sophomore keeper Emma Malsy, who went to ground in attempt to block the shot just four minutes into the second half.

Wendlandt got another shot off just four minutes later, shooting from the top of the box to the right side of the goal where Malsy made a diving save to secure the shot.

Through 15 minutes of the second half, Kansas State had yet to get another shot off, while the Bears had gotten a total of six more, two of which were on target.

The Wildcats got their best chance of the match when senior forward Tatum Wagner dribbled to the middle top of the box, lining up a shot and firing it on the ground to the left side of the goal, where Wandt kicked out her leg to make the deflection and keep the score at 1-0.

The game’s physicality picked up late with eight fouls committed in a span of 10 minutes. After a couple of late pushes from the Wildcats, the Baylor defense solidified the win for the Bears after two late shots on target. The win extended the Bears home win streak as they remain undefeated at home.

Wandt said even though the Wildcats continued fighting against the Bears’ defense, she felt comfortable knowing they had the lead and her experience with close matches this season has prepared her for this.

“Every game we’ve played is tight so this one really wasn’t anything new,” Wandt said. “We’re one up and we were in the lead so that always takes the pressure off of me.”

In the win over the Jayhawks on Sunday, the Bears went down early after a goal in the 33rd minute by senior forward Grace Hagan, who headed in a corner kick to give Kansas an early lead. Baylor could not find a way to answer for the rest of the half but led in shots on target with four out of its six shots.

The teams came out of the locker room with Baylor looking like a completely different squad. In the second period, the Bears drew the game level six minutes in with a corner kick from sophomore midfielder Ally Henderson that Wendlandt headed in for her eighth goal of the season. The Bears continued to press and just over 20 minutes later, freshman forward Taylor Moon headed the ball off the crossbar into the goal for what was potentially the game -winning goal.

Junior forward Raegan Padgett put an exclamation mark on the win nine minutes later when she turned on the jets to dribble by defenders and after sidestepping the Jayhawk keeper who came out for the block, found the back of the net to secure the 3-1 win for the Bears. Padgett said it was important to put the ball in the net to extend the lead and because of how her teammates set her up.

“I just saw the ball and I saw the goal, and I was just doing my best to put it away,” Padgett said. “I saw [senior midfielder Julie James] get up for that head ball and work her butt off for that, so I knew I had to do something with it. If that was getting a foul called or putting the goal away, I was just working hard for my team and giving us a little more cushion.”

Baylor finished the match with 15 total shots, eight on target, whereas Kansas finished with eight total shots and two on target. With the victory, the Bears remain undefeated at home this season and extended their win streak to seven games.

As the team prepares for its last regular season matchup of the season against the Sooners, Jobson said the team is preparing for the matchup just like any other game.

“The reality is that we can’t change anything we do because we have to win the next game and we’re not even there yet. We have to just focus on the details and take care of our bodies because we have a quicker turnaround than normal,” Jobson said. “We know there’s no weak opponents here, and I know Oklahoma would love to come in here and keep us from doing that, so we’ve got to be 100 percent ready to fight for a championship.”

The Sooners are coming off a 4-1 loss to West Virginia who are 7-1 in conference play. If Baylor and West Virginia both win on Thursday, they will share a portion of the Big 12 regular season title. Oklahoma has the tough challenge of going against a team who scores often and refuses to take home losses. Leading the offense for Oklahoma is junior midfielder Kaylee Dao who has scored six goals on 30 shots this season and will be looking to hand the Bears their first loss at home this season.