By Will Chamblee | Sports Editor
Baylor women’s soccer will open its season Friday at 7 p.m. against conference rival TCU at Betty Lou Mays Soccer Field.
This will be the first of nine Big 12 games that the team will play in its newly revised conference-only schedule.
Senior goalkeeper Jennifer Wandt said in a press conference Thursday that the team was excited to finally be able to play Big 12 soccer.
“There was so much uncertainty, so the fact that we are going to get a game in is exciting to my teammates and I,” Wandt said. “I feel like a kid on Christmas morning.”
Following a disappointing season marred by injuries where the Bears finished 8-8-3 and 7th in the Big 12, head coach Paul Jobson said that the team is out to prove themselves.
“I think, if anything, it’s kind of a thorn in our side that we’re ready to get back out and prove what kind of team we are,” Jobson said. “These veterans are definitely hungry.”
Baylor returns eight starters, including sophomore forward and Big 12 All-Freshman Elizabeth Kooiman and senior midfielder Ally Henderson. Leading the defense will be senior goalkeeper and four-year starter Jennifer Wandt.
The Bears will rely on the pairing of Kooiman and junior forward Elena Reyna to replace last season’s leading scorer Raegan Padgett, who graduated.
While Baylor returns many experienced players, the roster will also be filled with new talent, as 14 freshmen will be on the roster.
Jobson said that several freshmen have made an instant impact in the team and will be in the starting lineup against TCU on Friday.
“We’re going to have a few freshmen starting,” Jobson said. “These freshmen have really bought in to this mentality right away. I feel really good about where they are when it comes to competing at the Big 12 level.”
The Horned Frogs were runner-up last season in the Big 12 Championships and were voted to finish third in the Big 12 preseason poll. Baylor was voted to finish seventh but did receive one first-place vote.
TCU will be led by senior midfielder Yazmeen Ryan and junior forward Messiah Bright, both of whom were selected to the 2020 Preseason All-Big 12 Team.
Bright and Ryan combined for 19 goals and 15 assists last season for the Horned Frogs.
While defending against them may be a tough task, Jobson said he’s excited his team gets to play against the “country’s best” in Ryan and Bright to open the season.
“I’m excited for our group that we’re going to face players like that right out of the gate,” Jobson said. “I’d rather do that and know where we stand and know where we are going on to the eight games after.”
Jobson said that he will rely on the veterans to lead the team on the field against TCU and help the freshmen acclimate quickly to Big 12 soccer.
“Our veterans are doing a great job. There is a few of them out there who are doing a great job leading by example,” Jobson said. “They’re familiar with TCU and they’ll be able to lead the charge on the field and will be great coaches on the field for our young players.”
Baylor leads the all-time series 13-4-4 and beat TCU 4-0 in their only meeting last year in Fort Worth. The Bears haven’t lost to TCU in Waco since 1986.
Baylor announced on Monday that they will not be selling season or single-game tickets this season, due to COVID-19. Instead, “50 or less” students will be admitted to the game on a “first-come, first-served basis.”
The game will also be broadcasted on ESPN+.