By Will Chamblee | Sports
The Bears return home to face No. 4 Oklahoma State, the defending Big 12 champion, after a disappointing 2-1 overtime loss to Iowa State in Ames, Iowa last Friday.
Despite the loss, things looked good offensively for the Bears as freshman midfielder Chloe Japic scored the first goal of the season for Baylor off a well-taken free-kick.
Japic was thrilled to net the first goal of her collegiate career, becoming the first freshman to score the opening goal of the season for Baylor since current redshirt sophomore midfielder Maddie Algya did in 2018.
“It was amazing,” Japic said. “I was so excited for myself and our team, as that allowed us to equalize the game.”
Baylor head coach Paul Jobson said that he hopes seeing one hit the back of the net will help galvanize the team’s offense.
“Scoring a goal and actually coming back from being down 1-0 against Iowa State, those are all things that have been really good for us,” Jobson said. “Every match we’re getting better.”
Oklahoma State has been the team to beat this year in the Big 12 conference. Undefeated at 3-0-0, the Cowgirls were picked to finish second in the Big 12 Soccer preseason poll and are currently ranked fourth in the nation in this week’s United Soccer Coaches Poll.
Oklahoma State boasts three selectees from the All-Big 12 preseason team: senior defender Kim Rodriguez, junior midfielder Grace Yochum and sophomore forward Olyvia Dowell.
Yochum led the team in scoring last season, with 11 goals in only 15 games. Dowell and Rodriguez both contributed heavily for the offense as well, combining for 15 assists. Dowell is also the reigning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week, after scoring the winning goal against West Virginia last Friday.
Oklahoma State currently leads the Big 12, alongside West Virginia, with 7 goals scored on the season, and boasts a powerful offense.
Jobson said that Baylor must be wary of Oklahoma State’s potent offense, particularly of their speed down the sidelines.
“They’re athletic, they’re fast. A quality team for sure,” Jobson said. “Athleticism and speed and their direct play are things we’ve got to really watch out for.”
Junior forward Taylor Moon echoed Jobson’s assessment of the Cowgirls, calling Oklahoma State a tough team to play against.
“They play really well together,” Moon said. “They’re a really well put together team, they’re really aggressive, they’re really fit. That’s what makes them ranked so highly. They work hard and that work till the last minute of the game so we’re going to have to keep up with that.”
The Bears will be shifting around their formation this weekend due to the absence of senior defender and leader Sarah Norman this Friday. Jobson said junior left back Kayley Ables will fill in at center back for Norman and sophomore defender Tara Sumer will also step in at left back — moves that Baylor has made during games this season through substitutions.
“It’s nothing out of the ordinary, it’s just a different way to start,” Jobson said. “We’ll still be quality in the back, and we got Ally [Henderson] still holding things down right in front of them and Jen [Wandt] holding things right behind them.”
Baylor will square off against Oklahoma State at 7 p.m. on Friday at Betty Lou Mays Field. The game will be televised on ESPN+.