As head coach Angela Kelly and the Longhorns emerge from non-conference play undefeated, a reminder of last year’s conference struggles will certainly be a point of emphasis this year.
Last season, five of Texas’ six Big 12 losses came by just a goal, exemplifying how close the Longhorns were to putting themselves in a more competitive position.
“We had so many close matches last year, and this year our young group is figuring out a way to win those matches,” Kelly said. “And I think that’s what we’re seeing. And to be achieving the results we are right now, that’s what we’re here for.”
Texas hopes to rectify the mistakes of 2016 with an improved level of play in its Big 12 weekend debut, which will begin against a scuffling Iowa State unit.
The Cyclones have recorded just two wins in 10 games thus far in 2017. But don’t expect a poor record to alter Texas’ preparation.
“The most important game on our schedule is Friday night. I’ve said that since day one, and we’re not going to change anything,” Kelly said. “One thing you are guaranteed is that whoever our opponent is next, they’re going to get our utmost respect, and they are going to get 100 percent of what the Longhorns have to bring.”
Texas jumped four spots to No. 17 in the nation this week on the United Soccer Coach Rankings list while being placed at No. 3 in the NCAA Women’s Soccer RPI. Those rankings are uncharted territory for the program. Texas already has eight wins in 2017 — they won eight games all of last year.
In order to maintain this year’s string of success, however, Texas must be alert against all conference opponents. No. 5 West Virginia — the runner-up in the 2016 Women’s College Cup — will be visiting the Longhorns this Sunday in what is sure to be an excellent test for the program.
West Virginia will look to continue its impressive play. The Mountaineers have won at least 16 games in each of the past four seasons, three of which resulted in a Big 12 title. With a 7–2 start in 2017, they appear poised to make another run at the National Championship.
Texas knows it faces lofty expectations heading into conference play, but the team’s leaders insist they are only focused on their end-of-year goals.
“I think it’s great to come 8–0 out of preseason,” junior forward Alexa Adams said, “but our main focus is to go through the season and try to keep that record and play every team to the best of our ability so that we can make the Big 12 tournament and go on to the NCAA tournament.”