By AnnaGrace Hale | Sports Writer
Baylor soccer fans packed Betty Lou Mays Field on Friday to watch the squad face the University of Oklahoma for the first game of Big 12 play. The physicality of the Sooners got the best of the Bears, and head coach Michelle Lenard’s team suffered a goalless 2-0 loss.
“We’re in a rut here; We can’t find a way to get the ball in the back of the net,” Lenard said. “Our challenge now is can we keep struggling through this? Can we continue to try to find ways to score goals?”
Despite 12 shots from eight different players, Baylor (2-5-2, 0-1-0 Big 12) could not capitalize and make the Sooners (6-2-2, 1-0-0 Big 12) pay. Only four of these shots were on target with half at goal from junior forward Ashley Merrill.
In the first half, the Bears looked to the goal often, but no shot proved too dangerous. Junior midfielder Gabby Mueller had two shots in the first six minutes, one launched from 20 yards out.
Lenard said the team needs to focus on the correct decision-making in the final third.
“We had a four against two on a counter-attack, and we shot it from probably 25 yards out,” Lenard said. “That’s not what they’re being coached to do in those moments. That’s a decision that a player is making. It’s the wrong one. We have got to be better there.”
The starting lineup for Baylor looked a little different for the conference opener. Junior goalkeeper Madison Martin started for the second time this season. Fifth-year senior Kayley Ables took a chance to go up top at forward during some of the first half. With Ables sitting at striker, freshman defender Hallie Augustyn took the reigns of the three-person backline serving as the lone center defender. The Flower Mound native was crucial in making multiple stops against Oklahoma’s renowned goal-scorer Emma Hawkins.
Junior defender Sarah Hornyak found herself in the starting lineup and claimed some minutes in the outside back position. Unfortunately, Hornyak was the first to see the ball hit the back of Baylor’s net. Attempting to clear the ball after a shot from Oklahoma’s Ella Pappas, the Southlake product deflected the ball resulting in a goal. Because Pappas’ shot was on target, the goal was not deemed an own goal. Nevertheless, the Bears found themselves behind going into the 34th minute.
Lenard said the squad tried to change things up in the midfield during this half to create chances.
“It did create opportunities for us on the ball in possession in the attacking half,” Lenard said. “But because we weren’t able to execute in those moments. We struggled in transition, which is really where we got exploited.”
The Bears transitioned to four in the back for the second half and found good connections on the right side between sophomore midfielder Micah Beasly and Hornyak. Beasly served in some crosses, but her teammates were absent in the box. The last step seemed to always be missing.
“We’re getting chances in the space between the backline in the midfield line, and we lack the final pass,” Lenard said. “We’re one pass away from that being a lot more, but that one pass is really important.”
In the 54th minute, the green and gold had three consecutive shots, but each missed their mark with the last going wide right.
Oklahoma secured its victory in the 83rd minute after a freekick was awarded outside the 18-yard box. The shot was lofted over Martin’s head and met the back of the net.
“My words for the girls were just can we struggle well?” Lenard said. “It’s not easy where we are right now and so we’re going to really have some character and integrity tested in these moments and hopefully we keep fighting through it.”
Baylor will hit the road to take on the University of Texas at 7 p.m. Sept. 30 at the Mike A. Myers Stadium and Soccer Field in Austin.