There is no margin for error anymore for Texas as the No. 4 seed Longhorns kick off the 2017 NCAA Women’s Soccer Championship on Friday evening. The team is locked into a first round rematch with North Texas, with kickoff from Mike A Myers Stadium slated for 5 p.m.
Given Texas’ three losses in its past five games, there’s no guarantee the Longhorns will advance into the second round of the tournament. But despite the team’s struggles of late, the Longhorns believe they can reset and play like the team that started the season 12–0.
“We just need to focus back on our core values, just focusing on the little things and pursuing each other and focusing on each other more than the outside distractions,” junior midfielder Katie Glenn said. “We kind’ve reset our minds and are ready to go for this tournament.”
Texas will have the home field advantage on Friday, but will see a stark disadvantage in one area: momentum. North Texas is 3–0–1 in its last four matches, with a goal differential of plus-nine. The Mean Green have played their best soccer of late, led by the strong play of goalkeeper Brooke Bradley. The junior has recorded 13 saves in her last four matches, allowing just one goal.
Texas won an earlier meeting between the two teams in August 1-0, but after two months of time, development and team progression, North Texas has fought to close the gap. North Texas’ last loss came six matches ago against Old Dominion.
A possible lack in strength of schedule may be a reason for the excellent record by North Texas this season, but similar to Texas, young players have played major roles.
The Mean Green’s offense has been driven by two freshmen. Second-leading goal scorer Ariel Diaz and starting defender Brooke Lampe have combined for 11 goals this season, just one less than the Longhorns’ dynamic duo of freshman forward Haley Berg and sophomore forward Cyera Hintzen.
“Once (freshmen) step onto the campus here for us, they’re no longer a freshman. They’re a Texas women soccer player,” Longhorn head coach Angela Kelly said. “A lot of the young people we have coming in are coming in with a wealth of experience … And with all that experience we want to expedite their wisdom, and we want to give them the confidence to keep doing what they’ve been doing their whole careers thus far.”
Following an early exit in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament, the Longhorns know their season can end in a hurry on Friday night. But Texas isn’t focusing on their possible elimination. Instead, the Longhorns mentality is upbeat, and ready for the challenge of postseason play.
“Enjoy it,” redshirt sophomore midfielder Mikayla Flores said. “I think that’s the biggest thing, is that you go out there and enjoy it and play free and play for each other.”