By Will Chamblee | Sports Writer
Baylor women’s soccer will face its biggest test of the early season, as they square off against Texas Tech on Friday in Lubbock.
Following last week’s goalless draw to rival TCU, where the Bears started four freshmen, Baylor head coach Paul Jobson said he hopes the team can build on their performance leading up to the Texas Tech game.
“We grew up a ton in the first 45 minutes [of the TCU game],” Jobson said. “We played a lot better in the second half than the first, and a lot of that is them learning the speed of the game and the physicality of the game.”
The Bears struggled to create offense against the Horned Frogs, with only nine shots during the game, four on target. Jobson said he thought the experience in the TCU game would help the team create more offense moving forward.
“Now the veterans remember, and the freshmen know that everything has to be played a little bit faster,” Jobson said. “It won’t happen overnight, but over the next couple of weeks we will see better offensive connections amongst our players.”
Texas Tech returns eight of the eleven starters from last year’s team that made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The Red Raiders beat Baylor twice last season, 2-0 in Waco and 1-0 at the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City, Mo.
Tech boasts three players in the preseason All-Big 12 team, including reigning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year forward Kirsten Davis, the 2019 Freshman of the Year goalkeeper Madison White and experienced defender Cassie Hiatt
Davis accounted for an astounding 16 goals last season in only 22 games, ranking second in the Big 12 behind only Kansas forward Katie McClure who scored 17.
Texas Tech were picked to finish first in the Big 12 soccer preseason poll, with six first-place votes.
Sophomore midfielder Maddie Algya said Tech will present a unique challenge for Baylor, especially with their physicality.
“They’re very big and athletic and a little mean,” Algya said. “I’m expecting them to push us around a little bit. We know what’s coming.”
Jobson said that the team will try and use Texas Tech’s size against them by utilizing their speed and moving the ball quickly across the field.
“Against bigger players you have to move the ball quickly and not get stuck with it. That’s something that we do a really good job of,” Jobson said. “We’re always up for the physical matchup.”
This will be Texas Tech’s season opener, which junior defender and current Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week Kayley Ables thinks will give Baylor an edge.
“I definitely think it will give us an advantage because they’ve [only] gotten to play with each other,” Ables said. “You can practice all you want but once you step foot on that field it is such a different experience.”
Hitting the road for the first time this season, the Bears have yet to deal with the implementation of COVID-19 travel precautions. Jobson said that the team is prepared for the new traveling protocol but is also prepared for the unexpected.
“Like everything else with this COVID season, you are as planned as can be, but as Mike Tyson said, ‘Everyone’s got a great plan until they get punched in the face’,” Jobson said.
Kickoff against the Red Raiders is at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the John Walker Soccer Complex in Lubbock. The game will be televised on ESPNU.