Soccer faces Texas Tech in Big 12 tournament semifinals

Baylor senior defender Ariel Leach dribbles the ball against Oklahoma on Oct. 25. The Bears face Texas Tech at 4:30 p.m. Friday in the Big 12 Tournament. Jason Pedreros | Multimedia Journalist

By Ben Everett | Sports Editor

The defending Big 12 tournament and regular season champion Baylor soccer faces Texas Tech in the semifinals of the Big 12 Championship at 4:30 p.m. Friday in Kansas City, Mo.

The Bears (16-4, 8-1) defeated Iowa State 3-0 on Sunday to begin their run in the conference tournament. Baylor head coach Paul Jobson said the Bears’ first round performance was impressive.

“I was really happy with some of our young kids coming into the game and really picking up the momentum a little bit for us,” Jobson said. “I’m really happy with the way we approached that game and how the consistency came through. That’s a really good team, and scoring three goals on that team is really difficult to do. I don’t know if we’ve done that in a long time.”

The Bears will be facing Texas Tech team that they defeated 2-0 on Sept. 30 in Lubbock. Senior forward Jackie Crowther scored both goals for Baylor in the win, with one goal coming in each half. Jobson said Crowther bailed out the Bears in the win despite the team not performing as well as it wanted to.

“They’re a good team. We went up there and came away with a 2-0 victory, but I don’t think the score was really indicative of the game,” Jobson said. “I think we were able to capitalize on our opportunities and they didn’t. But they’re a really good team. It wasn’t our best game, but still we were able to come away with a victory. But we know they’re a quality team and they knocked off a good team the other day in the quarterfinals, and they’re going to be a tough opponent for us.”

Since the loss to Baylor, the Red Raiders are 5-1, including a 5-4 win over TCU in penalties on Sunday to advance to the semifinals. Baylor junior forward Camryn Wendlandt said the Bears aren’t taking the Red Raiders for granted despite already beating them this year.

“We have to take it one game at a time,” Wendlandt said. “Just because you did something in the past doesn’t mean you can do it again in the future. I have full confidence in our team and our ability but … they’re a very good team, they have a really good mentality and its going to be a tough game tomorrow.”

The Red Raiders are led by sophomore forward Kirsten Davis and junior forward Jade King. Davis leads the team in total points with 15, including five goals and five assists. King is first on the team in goals scored with seven.

Last season, No. 5-seeded Baylor won the Big 12 tournament for the second time in program history. This year, the Bears are the team to beat, having won the Big 12 regular season title and holding the No. 1 seed. Senior forward Kennedy Brown said a repeat is on the back of everyone’s minds as they head into the semifinals.

“It’s for sure a little chip on our shoulder,” Brown said. “We want to keep that in our back pocket. We’re always fighting to win, and we’re fighting for each other, so that’s the most important thing.”

With the Bears being the top seed in the tournament, Wendlandt said the team has a different mindset going in.

“It does feel a little bit different this year because last year we went into the tournament as the five seed,” Wendlandt said. “As Paul [Jobson] would say, we were the ‘hunters’ and this year, we are the ‘hunted.’ We have a target on our back.”

On Monday, the Bears were tabbed No. 9 in the United Coaches Poll and No. 3 in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), both program records. The RPI is a tool used by the NCAA Tournament selection committee to decide on seeding for the postseason. Sophomore goalkeeper Jennifer Wandt said the Bears aren’t looking ahead to the NCAA Tournament until they finish up the conference tournament.

“I don’t think we’re thinking about that too much,” Wandt said. “I know it’s going to be nice to know we have a home game or two for postseason, but we’re just focused on winning and getting more games with each other.”

If Baylor defeats Texas Tech on Friday, they will face the winner of West Virginia and Texas at 2:30 p.m. Sunday for the Big 12 title.