Soccer vying for tournament spot during spring season

Freshman striker Mackenzie Anthony takes a shot against Oklahoma during Baylor's 1-0 win over the Sooners on Nov. 6, 2020. Photo courtesy of Baylor Athletics

By Will Chamblee | Sports Writer

Baylor women’s soccer will return for the spring portion of their season as the team hopes to secure a bid to the upcoming NCAA tournament, set to take place May 13-17, after finishing fifth in Big 12 play.

“As a program, we are excited to play matches this spring that could lead to an NCAA berth,” Baylor head coach Paul Jobson said. “Our team is focused and looking forward to continuing the momentum we had at the end of the fall.”

The Bears currently sit at 3-3-3 and will take on a number of Power Five opponents, beginning with an exhibition against Texas A&M on Feb. 27 at Betty Lou Mays Field in Waco. The team will open competitive play with a rematch against rivals TCU on Mar. 6 in Fort Worth. Baylor will follow their trip to Fort Worth with games against Texas, LSU, Louisiana and fellow Big 12 members Oklahoma and Texas Tech.

News dropped last fall that the Women’s College Cup’s participants would be reduced from 64 to 48 teams due to COVID-19. Baylor will be vying for one of the 17 at-large bids as it tries to reach the tournament. Jobson said the Bears intentionally scheduled tough spring matchups so they could boost their tournament resume.

“For us to have an opportunity to get into the NCAA tournament, we needed to build our schedule as tough as we could,” Jobson said. “I just wanted to make sure that we didn’t mess up by not scheduling hard enough to be able to get in.”

There to help Baylor navigate the tough schedule will be an explosive group of freshmen who now have nine games worth of experience under their belt from the fall. Jobson described how the game experience will help them be more comfortable and confident for the spring.

“For some of them you can already see a difference,” Jobson said. “They’re not stepping onto the training ground as nervous. Now they know they belong. Now they know they can compete at this level. There’s an air of confidence about them on the field.”

A potential struggle for every team, not just Baylor, will be getting used to the pace of play after being on break for nearly three months. However, Jobson said his players are used to extended breaks and will be ready to go come their opener against TCU.

“We take the entire summer off,” Jobson said. “We’re not allowed to work with our players the entire summer, and they show up in the fall and have to be ready to compete. If there is any benefit, our players should be ready for that.”

The exhibition match against Texas A&M on Feb. 27 will take place at 5 p.m. Like in the fall, attendance will be limited to 300 people. Every game can also be streamed on ESPN+.