Texas soccer surpassed preseason expectations during its conference matchups, finishing third in the Big 12 instead of a projected sixth, despite its core offense consisting of underclassmen.
Now, coming off a loss to Texas Tech, the young team must rally as it takes on Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship Wednesday.
“This is cup time,” head coach Angela Kelly said. “It’s do or die, and we have to win. Our sense of urgency has to go up, but at the same time have the same philosophy that we’ve shared since day one. We have to execute and take care of everything. There’s no added preparation or pressure. [We] just have to go after it.”
In 2012, Texas lost in the semifinals to TCU in a 4-2 shootout after a scoreless game.
Last season the team finished with a poor 8-10-2 overall record, including a mere 4-4 record in the Big 12. This year’s team improved its overall record to 12-5-2 and 5-2-1 in conference. The only two conference losses came to West Virginia and Texas Tech, the two teams ranked higher than Texas.
Despite going into the tournament coming off a loss, sophomore forward Kelsey Shimmick doesn’t think that will affect the outcome.
“I don’t think it gave us a bad mindset,” Shimmick said. “It lit a fire under us. We like our chances if we have to play them again, because they didn’t see the real Texas Longhorns. We can beat any team in the tournament.”
A young team, most of Texas’ statistical leaders are sophomores and juniors. Three freshmen have scored at least one goal, and the only senior to log real playing time this season is midfielder Gabby Zarnegar, who has two goals and four assists.
Shimmick’s four goals put her in a tie for the team lead, along with junior midfielder Sharis Lachappelle, sophomore midfielder Lindsey Meyer and junior defender Brooke Gilbert. Sophomore forward Chantale Campbell, who has three goals of her own, leads the team in assists with five.
Kelly said her team is dynamic all over the field and that makes it hard for other teams to keep up.
“They look at the personalities and have to figure out how to stop us,” Kelly said. “How are they going to stop Abby Smith’s distribution? How are they going to break down our backs? How are they going to deal with Kelsey, Sharis and Chantale?”
Meyer believes the team is prepared for the tournament, but knows progressing in the tournament will add challenges.
“The way we’re looking at it is one game at a time,” Meyer said. “We’re focusing only on Oklahoma State. Our coaches have been helping us take care of our bodies to play three games in six days.”