Alexa Gaul

After a strong start to the season, the Longhorns feel off once again at the end of the year falling to South Carolina in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Photo Credit: Kiersten Holms | Daily Texan Staff

The Texas soccer season started off with promise, as the team looked like they had the ability to contend in the Big 12. Losing 3-1 to Loyola Marymount in the team’s first game was all forgotten, as the Longhorns went on to win five straight games. Texas was playing beautiful soccer.

Fans who went to Mike A. Myers were not disappointed, as they would see Hannah Higgins terrorizing opposing defenses with her speed and dribbling ability. Kylie Doniak was the perfect No. 9, having the strength to push off center backs, while at the same time possessing the touch that is necessary from a lone striker. Midfielder Alexis Harris was the creative spark in the middle who performed a 30-yard strike against Houston. Vanessa Ibewuike was a dangerous option off the bench.

The defense was just as strong with centerbacks Lucy Keith and Nina Frausing Pedersen leaving opposing offenses frustrated. Even if the opposing team got by Keith and Pedersen, they still had to deal with goalkeeper Alexa Gaul. During the five-game winning streak, Gaul posted four shutouts and gave up only one goal. It seemed like every game she was climbing up the Texas soccer record book.

However, around midseason, the Longhorns went to California for the USC Invitational and when they came back, all their mojo was lost. Before the tournament, Texas had a 5-1 record, but after, they finished the year 6-8-1. That free-flowing soccer the Longhorns played at the beginning of the season was gone, and the team looked stagnant. Injuries to Taylor Knaack and Doniak only added to the team’s troubles.

The difficulties the Longhorns had finally compounded in a game late in the year against San Diego State. The Longhorns lost at home to a team they had no business losing to. Head coach Chris Petrucelli had a 30-minute meeting after the game, before interviews were conducted, obviously angry at the result.

Even with an irate coach, the team was unable to respond and three struggles continued. Texas’ problems could not be pinpointed to one thing and the squad was outplayed, outcoached and was out-hustled at the end of the year. If this program is going to improve, something needs to change. The good news is the Longhorns do not need to look far to find optimism; they just need to look at the tapes and see the stunning soccer they played at the beginning of the year.

Printed on Wednesday, November 16, 2011 as: Texas season ends early; What went wrong?

Women's Soccer

Junior midfielder Kristin Cummins (8) scored in the first half of the LonghornsÂ’ 1-1 tie against Oklahoma State on Oct. 14, it was the only first-half goal conceded by the Cowgirls all season.

Photo Credit: Danielle Villasana | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorns take the field this evening looking to reach the final round of the Big 12 Championship as they take on top seeded Oklahoma State University.

Texas is hoping to build on top of the momentum from Wednesday’s victory when they shut out Texas Tech, 1-0, in the first round of the tournament.

The No. 2 Cowgirls, having just defeated the Oklahoma Sooners in the first round, come into the match undefeated, 18-0-2, and are looking to win their second-consecutive Big 12 tournament.

The Longhorns will need a strong defensive performance, especially from junior goalkeeper Alexa Gaul. Last week Gaul was named to the All Big 12 second team for her contributions on the field this season.

Wednesday’s shutout against the Raiders was Gaul’s seventh of the season and 19th of her career, which placed her in second on the Texas record books for career clean sheets.

Texas is one of only two teams to not have lost to Oklahoma State this season. During regular season action, they played to a 1-1 draw in Stillwater.

On offense, the Longhorns will be looking to junior midfielder Kristin Cummins and senior forward Kylie Doniak to step up. Both are tied for the team lead in goals with five.

Doniak, who had been the central figure in the Longhorn playbook earlier this season, is coming off a knee injury that kept her out of five games this season.

Texas leads the all time series against the Cowgirls 9-7-3.

Published on November 4, 2011 as: Gaul, Cummins give Texas a shot at conference title
 

Taylor Knaack dribbles the ball during the LonghornsÂ’ 5-1 win over Cal State Northridge on August 28. Texas beat Texas Tech on Wednesday to advance in the Big 12 Tournament in San Antonio. (Daily Texan file photo)

Photo Credit: Danielle Villasana | Daily Texan Staff

You can add another clean sheet to Alexa Gaul’s already impressive resume.

The junior goalkeeper had four saves as fifth-seeded Texas held off fourth-seeded Texas Tech, 1-0, in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament in San Antonio on Wednesday.

The shutout, which came days after Gaul was selected for the All-Big 12 second team, is the 19th of her career and seventh of the season.

“Gaul needs some credit for stonewalling us,” said Texas Tech head coach Tom Stone. “This game was really determined in the first 20 minutes. Texas pushed us around a little bit.”

On offense, the Longhorns only needed Kristin Cummins’ goal in the 11th minute to advance to the semifinals to take on Oklahoma State tomorrow. The No. 2 Cowgirls finished undefeated in the Big 12 this season and are defending Big 12 champions.

The goal, Cummins’ fifth of the season, was set up by a brilliant pass from senior forward Kylie Doniak. Cummins was able to head the ball into the right corner, just out of reach from Red Raider goalkeeper Victoria Esson. Doniak, who missed five games during the season because of a right knee injury, tallied her fifth assist of the season.

“[Doniak] clipped it in, and it was a perfect ball,” Cummins said. “It couldn’t have been any more on the money. I saw the keeper near post, so I knew my only chance was to redirect it to the far post. I think I got enough on it to just get it to the corner.”

The Longhorns go into Friday’s match being one of only two teams that did not lose to Oklahoma State this season, after playing to a 1-1 draw on Oct. 14. 

Nina Frausing Pedersen’s road to Texas was a long one.

As in 7,230 miles-long, the approximate distance between Auckland, New Zealand and Austin.

While the sophomore defender is a native of Silkeborg, Denmark, the prospect of playing for the Longhorns came about during the 2008 FIFA Women’s U-17 World Cup in New Zealand.

The Danish international dreamed of coming to America to continue her soccer career and she turned to Facebook, of all places, to make that dream a reality.

After the tournament, Frausing Pedersen sent a friend request to U-17 U.S. World Cup goalkeeper, Alexa Gaul, whom she had never met and who just happened to be the goalie for the Longhorns.

“We had no idea who each of us was,” Gaul said. “I remember we were in the same hotel at one point, but I had no idea who she was.”

At that point, Frausing Pedersen was simply looking for more information on how to contact coaches and the possibility of playing collegiately.

“I was just like, ‘you can talk to my coach, here’s his email,’” Gaul said. “And it all worked out. We just built a friendship over Facebook and just communicated through that and she just ended up coming here, which was awesome.”

The friendship grew so strong that the two have since become roommates.

“We talk about everything on the field and leave everything on the field,” Frausing Pedersen said. “But we can be straight up with each other if we need anything. She’ll tell me what to do and I’ll do it, and afterwards we can go talk about it if we want something done differently. But we have a really good relationship.”

After Texas head coach Chris Petrucelli made the trek to Denmark to see Frausing Pedersen play, he knew she had to come to Texas. Ultimately, in a choice between Stanford and Texas, she chose the Longhorns and Petrucelli credits Texas’ persistent recruiting in convincing her.

“I was excited when I watched her play,” Petrucelli said. “I saw someone who was really good athletically, solid technically and a hard worker.”

But Petrucelli acknowledges that there are some difficulties in recruiting international players, such as not being able to see them play often or differences in academic standards.

“There are culture issues and whether or not they want to go that far from home,” Petrucelli said. “I will say that Nina, early in her freshman year, struggled with some homesickness.”

But her team was always there for her.

“Our team took to Nina right away and they were certainly looking out for her and protecting her early on, but I’ll tell you what — right now, it’s almost like she’s a Texan with a Danish accent,”
Petrucelli said.

Now in her second year, things have become easier for Frausing Pedersen. She knows her teammates better and she’s more comfortable with the language and with Austin. She‘s more confident in her ability and has earned the trust of Petrucelli, who has put her in his starting 11 every match this season.

The Dane, who began playing soccer at age 4 because of her father, even scored her first goal as a Longhorn in a 2-1 victory over Iowa State. That, according to her, was her greatest accomplishment during her time in Austin.

Along with providing stability to the backline, Frausing Pedersen showed her versatility last Sunday against Seattle University when Petrucelli asked the central defender to start at forward, something she had never done before.

“We’re making it a little hard on her by moving her all around, but I thought she did well up front,” Petrucelli said. “But she has the ability to play at a number of different spots and she’s good at all of them.”

Despite the accolades, Frausing Pedersen remains grounded. She understands that the expectations for this team, and for her personally, are high. She also feels that there is more to accomplish this season.

“This year we have such a good team, so I think we can win the Big 12,” Frausing Pedersen said. “And hopefully we can go further than last year in the NCAA. But [the goal] is to win the Big 12.”

For Frausing Pedersen, who admits that she still misses her friends and family back in Denmark, life has become a little easier. And in only her second year, her future as a Longhorn looks bright.

“She’s certainly going to be one of our better players and a leader here over the next couple of years,” Petrucelli said. “I think we’re just starting to see the beginning of a really talented player.” 

Women's Soccer Preview

Texas is hoping to get back on track when it hosts Seattle University in an out-of-conference match Sunday afternoon at Mike A. Myers Stadium.

The Longhorns are coming back from a bittersweet road trip in which they managed to stop No. 10 Oklahoma State’s 15-match win streak with a 1-1 draw last Friday in Stillwater, but lost to Texas Tech 3-2 in double overtime two days later in Lubbock.

The Redhawks (10-5) look to keep their two-match win streak alive when they take on the Longhorns, who dropped 9-6-1 and 3-3-1 after last week’s matches.

Starting goalkeeper Alexa Gaul will look to bounce back after allowing three goals last Sunday. The junior had only allowed three goals in her three previous matches combined.

The Naperville, Ill. native might also try to get back on the score sheet after netting her second career goal against the Red Raiders on a 30-yard free kick.

Kristen Cummins scored her fourth goal of the season during TexasÂ’ tie against Oklahoma State.

Photo Credit: Danielle Villasana | Daily Texan Staff

Texas had a long weekend. On Friday night, the Longhorns traveled to Stillwater, Okla., where they faced the second-ranked and undefeated Cowgirls. After fighting through two overtimes against the Cowgirls, the game ended in a 1-1 draw, Texas traveled to Lubbock for a Sunday night match. The Texas Tech Red Raiders took the Longhorns through another double overtime match. However, Texas’s luck ran out in Lubbock where they eventually fell 2-4 to the Raiders.
As a result of this weekend’s action, Texas fell to 9-6-1 on the season and 3-3-1 in the Big 12. Texas now ranks fifth in the Big 12.

The Longhorns struck early against the undefeated Cowgirls with a goal by junior Kristin Cummins off of an assist by senior Taylor Knaack in the first five minutes of play. The goal propelled Texas to early 1-0 lead that marked the first time this season that the second-ranked Oklahoma State Cowgirls trailed at any point during a game.

Texas kept that lead going through the entire first half thanks to several impressive saves by junior goal keeper Alexa Gaul. Oklahoma State scored the tying goal in the 12th minute of the second half off a long shot in the upper corner of the goal.

The battle went on through two overtimes before the game was ruled a 1-1 draw. The draw snapped the Cowgirl’s 15-game record but was not enough to knock them from atop the Big 12.

Gaul and sophomore Nina Frausing Pederson scored the two Longhorn goals in Lubbock on Sunday night. Pederson was assisted by junior Vanessa Ibewuike. Gaul was unassisted in her second goal for the season, a rare feat for a goalkeeper.

The Longhorns return to the field this Sunday for the “Kick for the Cure,” a match against Seattle University that aims to raise money to support the fight against breast cancer.

Texas goalkeeper Alexa Gaul has been a steady presence in the net, posting four shutouts on the year already in eight games.

Photo Credit: Fanny Trang | Daily Texan Staff

In just two years, junior goalkeeper Alexa Gaul has made a world of difference. Her confidence and skill in the net has contributed not only to the Longhorns’ success but to the success of the U.S. Under-20 and Under-23 Women’s National Teams.

During regular season play, Gaul has recorded four shutouts this year, in addition to the shutout against TCU during preseason action. Those shutouts bring her career total to 16, which places her at second in career shutouts in the Texas all-time record books.

Two of those shutouts came during the first weekend of September in consecutive games at home against UTSA and Dartmouth College. Her performance earned her the honor of Big 12 Conference Defensive Player of the Week for that week.

Gaul was awarded various conference honors last season, including three Big 12 Conference Defensive Player of the Week awards. She became the first Longhorn to win three ‘player of the week’ honors in the same season.

Another notable statistic connected with Gaul’s shutouts is that it is the second time in history that a Texas goal keeper has produced four shutouts in the first six games of the season.

“I’ve just been working on staying focused and doing the little things,” Gaul said.

The Longhorns are 6-2-0 on the season, with 19 total goals and four shutouts.

Gaul’s contribution to the team stretches even further. During the 2-0 win against UTSA on Sept. 2, Gaul was credited with an assist. Most defensive players, especially goalkeepers, never have the opportunity to make an assist.

After saving a shot, Gaul threw the ball to junior teammate Hannah Higgins, who connected with junior Vanessa Ibewuike for a 20-yard goal.

“It really goes to show you that we have great players,” Ibewuike said. “Most people try to kick it out, but Alexa tried to find a pass that got to Hannah ... I hope they both get credited the assist on that one. It was a great job.”

Texas head coach Chris Petrucelli is equally impressed by the commitment and skill shown by his goalkeeper.

“[The] goal was really athletic movement. You know, fast, powerful. Alexa went at the ball in the air, which was great coming off the line,” Petrucelli said. “And then Hannah and Vanessa ran 120 yards at full speed ... that [goal] was pretty impressive.”

As a Longhorn, Gaul has started in all eight games so far this season for a total of 711:29 minutes of play. She is credited with 18 saves, which yields a 0.720 save percentage.

As a member of the United States Under-23 Women’s National Team, Gaul earned the starting job in the Four Nations Tournament hosted in England in the summer of 2010. As keeper, Gaul registered two shutouts to help the National Team win the tournament.

Her participation on many different teams provides Gaul the experience necessary to exceed at the college level.

“One of our mottoes for this year is to play fast and get the ball,” Gaul said. “Just looking quick and being ready, that’s what I’m trying to do.”

The Longhorns will host the Baylor Bears on Sept. 23 in the 2011 conference season opener.

Printed on Wednesday, September 14, 2011 as: Gaul keeps posting shutouts on pitch.

Preview

Texas goalkeeper Alexa Gaul, pictured to the left, was named the Big 12 Defensive player of the week for her two shutout performances last week. Gaul has helped the Longhorns to a 5-1-0 record on the season.

Photo Credit: Fanny Trang | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorns will try to continue their winning ways as they head west to play in the Trojan Invitational in Los Angeles, Calif. Texas enters the tournament with a five-game winning streak, which has been fueled by great defensive efforts from the Longhorns’ back line.

The leader at the back is the lady between the posts, keeper Alexa Gaul, who has started off the season with four shutouts in the first six matches. However, Gaul’s skill set is not limited to saving shots; she also has the ability to use her feet to set up chances for the Texas offense.

Last week in the game against UTSA, Gaul made an assist that helped set up the Longhorns’ second goal of the game.

”Most people try to kick it out, but Alexa tried to find a pass and [junior forward Hannah Higgins] worked hard to get it,” said junior forward Vanessa Ibewuike. “And I would hope that my goal assisted both of them. I hope they both get credited the assist on that one. It was a great job by both of them.”

Gaul’s kicking ability gives Texas an extra-woman advantage from goal kicks. Most team’s keepers are unable to kick off a restart like a goal kick. For Gaul, this is not a problem: The junior can kick the ball 60 yards downfield. This means Texas does not have to use a defender to kick the ball, and instead the defender can help win the ball for Texas. Having an extra woman helping to win the ball can make all the difference, especially in the procession style attack of Texas.

“One of our mottos for this year is to play fast and get the ball, so that’s what I’m trying to do,” Gaul said. “Just looking quick and being ready.” In the Trojan Invitational, the Longhorns should face some stiffer competition. The San Diego Toreros average two goals per game and also give up less than a goal per game. If Texas wants to increase its winning streak to six, the defense will have to slow down the Toreros’ offense. Senior forward Stephanie Ochs is the main threat going forward from San Diego. The senior has already tallied four goals this season.

The Longhorns will face Southern California in the second game of the tournament. Like Texas, the Trojans were off to a slow start at the beginning of the year but are heading into the tournament with a three-game winning streak of their own.

It is offense-by-committee for USC, with seven different players having already scored for the Trojans this year. Defensively, they are less than impressive. Texas should be able to find the back of the Trojans’ net; USC averages more than a goal-and-a-half per game.

Back-to-back wins for Texas should mean that the Longhorns will be ranked in the top 25 for the first time all season.

Printed on September 9, 2011 as: Texas will face Toreros, Trojans in California

No. 25 Texas finished its regular season with a well-played double overtime tie against regular season Big 12 champion Texas A&M.

Revenge was on the Longhorn’s mind after losing to the Aggies in the Big 12 semifinals 5-0 last season.

The teams were well matched, but the Longhorns played strong, especially defensively, and maintained possession for much of the game. This tie puts the Longhorns in the fifth seed for the Big 12 championships and they will face Oklahoma on Wednesday.

The Aggies took the lead in the 12th minute after Rachel Shipley sent the ball to Alyssa Mautz in the corner. Mautz sent a cross that hit the top cross bar, goalie Alexa Gaul got a hand on it, but could not stop it from going into the net.

Only one minute later, Kylie Doniak, who has had a goal or an assist in each of the last six games, responded by half-volleying a pass from Kristen Birkhold into the top left corner.

“I just knew after they got that goal that we just needed to get shots off,” Doniak said. “We needed to test the keeper and see what she’s about. You can’t score unless you shoot so I wanted to get something on it first and it just, God willing, [it] went in.”

Sophomore Hannah Higgins had a close opportunity when A&M goalie Kelly Dyer was taken down by her own teammate. Higgins got a head on the ball, but it landed in the arms of Dyer on the ground.

Soon after, A&M had a couple of great chances within a period of 15 seconds. Consecutive shots by Rachel Shipley and Alyssa Mautz were both stopped by Gaul.

A series of three corner kicks by Doniak led to some close chances for Longhorns Lucy Keith and Kristen Birkhold, but they could not capitalize.

“It’s a little but frustrating because we would have liked to win,” Doniak said. “Obviously we felt that we played really well tonight and we definitely had the chance to get another goal. We are going to work hard and hopefully beat them the next time we see them.”

Head coach Chris Petrucelli said the Longhorn defense played well and that they limited the amount of chances the Aggies had.

“The goal was a little unfortunate,” Petrucelli said. “She obviously was crossing the ball. It was a hard fought game and both teams played very well. They’re obviously a quality team and we were even with them.”

Petrucelli said the defense played well all around and both Erica Campanelli and Sophie Campise were strong on the outside even though they faced multiple one-on-one situations.

“Lucy [Keith] and Nina [Pederson] in the center were really good dealing with both Norah [Skelton] and Whitney [Hooper] who are really dangerous players,” Petrucelli said.

Although the Longhorns play a slower, more controlled game than the Aggies, coach Petrucelli was impressed with the team’s play.
 

Oklahoma ended Texas’ 13-game undefeated streak at home Sunday when the Sooners upended the Longhorns 2-1 in double overtime. Sooner forward Dria Hampton sent a shot from 30 yards out that sailed over Texas goalkeeper Alexa Gaul, off the post and in to give Oklahoma the win.

The last time the Longhorns didn’t win at home was on Oct. 2, 2009, and the team had never lost to the Sooners at Mike A. Myers Stadium.

Texas had plenty of opportunities to capitalize on scoring chances but couldn’t seem to get a foot on the ball when it needed to. Texas took eight corner kicks during the game but couldn’t connect on any of them.

“Of course that’s frustrating. We should have had a body on any of those,” said Texas midfielder Kylie Doniak. “We had a lot of chances that we should have put away.”

Oklahoma got the scoring off in the 10th minute when Sooner forward Whitney Palmer won a 50-50 ball with Texas goalkeeper Alexa Gaul. Sooner forward Caitlin Mooney sent the ball into the box, and Palmer got her head to the ball before Gaul could punch it out, giving the Sooners a 1-0 lead. Palmer is the all-time scoring leader at Oklahoma, and the goal was her eighth of the season.

Texas countered in the 20th minute when Doniak ripped a shot from her left foot that would have left the stadium if the net hadn’t stopped it. Doniak was the beneficiary of a Sooner turnover that left her alone seven yards outside the box.

The pace of the game slowed down in the second half, as neither team was able to get much going forward. Oklahoma was playing with the wind and tried to catch Gaul off-guard several times by sending in shots from near midfield.

Texas’ best chance came during the second half when Gaul sent a free kick from midfield inside the box where Doniak flicked it over to an open midfielder Kristin Cummins, but Cummins couldn’t get a toe to it, and it rolled out of bounds. It was the same song for the Longhorns for most of the night.

“We lacked composure in front of the goal,” Texas head coach Chris Petrucelli said. “There were a number of times where balls came across and we just missed.”

With the loss, Texas (11-4-3; 4-3-2 Big 12) falls to sixth in the conference. The Longhorns solidified a spot in next week’s Big 12 tournament with Friday’s win over Oklahoma State but need as many wins as possible if it wants to ensure a trip to the NCAA Tournament.