By Jessika Harkay | Sports Writer
In preseason polls, Baylor soccer is ranked No. 14 nationally and program-high No. 2 in the Big 12 Conference going into the 2019 season. The rankings don’t hold any weight to seventh-year head coach Paul Jobson, though.
“We don’t put much into that, you know. It’s people’s opinions. It’s not based on anything. People are looking at, ‘OK, what did the teams do last year, what did they lose, what do they have,’” Jobson said. “We’ve appreciate that attention, we appreciate the confidence people have in us, but it really means absolutely nothing. We got to get on the field every day and every train session and take advantage of those opportunities.”
The Bears come off their most successful year in program history, with a 20-6 record and the Big 12 regular season title.
Yet the team’s mentality is centered on leaving last season in the past and working towards this year’s development.
The program said goodbye to very few players in the offseason, with midfielder Julie James becoming the first Baylor soccer player to be drafted to the National Women’s Soccer League. Although losing a big scoring threat, the Bears have 15 returners on their roster, eight of whom are starters. With an experienced team coming back, Jobson is watching the women come together to create their own success.
“I’ve been really impressed with our seniors this year, and the leadership they’ve taken on. You know, learning from previous years, what they like, what they don’t like and making it their own,” Jobson said. “Every team has to have their own personality, and I think we do a good job of allowing that for our teams to have that personality, you know. It’s not my personality; it’s theirs.”
Of the team’s veterans is senior forward Camryn Wendlandt who scored 10 goals last year and described her teammates as “confidently humble.”
“I say that because we don’t air out what we’ve done in the past years. We know this is a brand new team, a brand new start,” Wendlandt said. “Like Paul said a couple of days ago, everyone in the nation is 0-0. We know that our experience in the past years doesn’t give us an edge.”
The soccer team opened the season with an exhibition on Aug. 11 against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, where the Bears fell to the Islanders 1-0.
The scrimmage came only two days after pre-season practice began. Regardless, Jobson said he appreciated the timing and believes it gives younger players a chance to settle in.
“Sometimes you train for a week, you feel like you’re at a certain place, you play a match and everything goes out the window and you kind of start over a little bit,” Jobson said. “We’ll be put to the test really early. We’ll know where we are. Get our freshmen adjusted early as well. Then we can move into the second exhibition with some experience under our belts and make some adjustments so after that exhibition, we feel like we’re hopefully firing on most of our cylinders.”
The experience that came from the first scrimmage seemed to work. In their second exhibition, Baylor came up on top with a 2-1 victory against Texas State, outshooting the Bobcats 19-9. According to junior midfielder Ally Henderson, these first two exhibitions have allowed the team to shape its identity early.
“Hard work, mentality, selfless attitude, servant-minded, I think those few things kind of encapsulate what we want to do with this team this year,” Henderson said. “I think they’ve really been harping on us to focus on those things because if we can get those done then the rest will fall in place.”
The official soccer season kicked off at 4 p.m., Sunday against Northwestern State at Betty Lou Mays Soccer Field.