Vanessa Ibewuike

Here are three keys Texas needs to focus on to beat Texas Tech.

Get better play from midfield:

In Texas’ last loss of the season — 3-0 against Texas A&M — the Aggies controlled the game from start to finish, and it was the first time the Longhorns had lost by two or more goals since their first game this season. To respond and beat Texas Tech, the midfield must play better. The team relies too much on wingers Hannah Higgins and Vanessa Ibewuike to attack opposing defenses, which leads to it having little to no possession in the middle of the attacking third. Midfielders Kristin Cummins and Lexi Harris need to step up and attack the Raiders’ defense by possessing the ball up the middle. If they are able to do this, there will be more space for Ibewuike and Higgins to attack opposing defenders.

Get more numbers in the box:

Even if the Longhorns are able to create space for Higgins and Ibewuike to attack defenders one on one, Texas still struggles to get multiple players in the box. Numerous times against the Aggies and other Big 12 teams, Texas has only had one player on the box trying to get on the end of a Higgins/Ibewuike cross. This leaves little opportunity for the one player, usually Kylie Doniak, to score since three defenders are marking them. If Higgins is crossing the ball, Ibewuike must attack the far post and vice-versa. Also, midfielders Harris, Cummins and Brooke Gilbert must push into the middle of the box. With more numbers in the box, the crosser will have more targets to pick out a teammate and multiple defenders will no longer be able to mark Doniak.

Penalty kicks:

Now that the Longhorns are participating in the Big 12 tournament, the unpopular penalty kicks will come into play. The good news is at the end of practice on Monday the team practiced penalties and the majority of the Longhorns looked confident from the spot kick.

Printed on Wednesday, November 2, 2011 as: Keys to the Game - Soccer

Forward Hannah Higgins takes a shot during the Longhorns’ game against Big 12 opponent Iowa State on Sunday.

Photo Credit: Zachary Strain | Daily Texan Staff

The Texas forwards hoped to compensate for the lack of rain in Austin by watering the field at Mike A. Myers Stadium with sweat and tears. After a disappointing 1-0 loss at home to Baylor in their conference season opener, the Longhorn’s front three led an aggressive attack Sunday against the Iowa State Cyclones.

“Iowa State is definitely a physical team,” said junior forward Hannah Higgins. “We’ve known coming into the game and so was Baylor. We knew we had to come out and be more aggressive if we were going to keep up with them. We had to compete a little bit more ... I think we show[ed] what our offense is capable of.”

Goals by senior forward Taylor Knaack and sophomore defender Nina Frausing Pedersen led the Longhorns to a 2-1 win against an equally aggressive Iowa State team.

Knaack and Higgins, along with junior forward Vanessa Ibewuike, came out strong and combined for nine shots, four on goal, that contributed to a team total of 17 shots. The forwards outplayed their Cyclone counterparts who had six team shots total.

“After Friday’s loss, we knew we had to come out strong, and I think it showed in the first 10 minutes or so,” Higgins said. “We were just down there shooting, and we kept shooting. We knew we needed to get goals today to get the result.”

With the loss of senior center forward Kylie Doniak to an injury last week, Texas head coach Chris Petrucelli has had to reorganize his offense. Petrucelli centered his scheme around Doniak’s footwork, leadership and her ability to control the ball. With Doniak on the bench, Ibewuike has been thrust into a starting role and has had to step up, along with Knaack and Higgins,
to compensate.

“We just all have to take on extra responsibility and have had to work extra hard,” Knaack said. “All three of us forwards have had to take on the role in the middle, switch positions every 10-15 minutes with a new person. In the middle, your job is just to hold it and distribute. We are just trying to work together.”

Both Knaack and Higgins have started all season up front, but this weekend marked Ibewuike’s first two starts of the season. Her constant and unrelenting attack throughout the game paid off and helped to stabilize the front line.

“Vanessa has just stepped right in and work[ed] with the team and has just been great,” Knaack said.

Against the Cyclones, Ibewuike had one assist on the Longhorn’s second score of the game, a goal in the 79th minute by Knaack. Ibewuike took control of the ball and surged past several defenders before passing to Knaack who knocked it in.

“Vanessa worked really hard to get down to the in-line,” Knaack said. “She basically did all the work; I was just there to finish.”

Higgins, Knaack and Ibewuike proved today that they may have the aggression it takes to survive in Big 12 conference play, even without the performance of their star forward. 

Printed on Monday September 26, 2011 as: Offense finds way to score

Forward Taylor Knaack (4) battle’s with Iowa State midfielder Erin Green during the Longhorns’ 2-1 victory over the Cyclones on Sunday. Knaack, a senior, secured Texas’ victory with her third goal of the season. Iowa State bounced back with another goal, but it wasn’t enough.

Photo Credit: Zachary Strain | Daily Texan Staff

After a disappointing loss to Baylor on Friday, Texas was able to adjust and pick up its first conference win against Iowa State.

The 7-3, 1-1 Longhorns beat the 6-5-1 Cyclones 2-1 on a hot day at Mike A. Myers stadium. Texas struggled early on to create any opportunities in the first half. It was an excellent run after two give-and-goes by left-back Amanda Lisberger in the 16th minute that jumpstarted the Longhorn offense.

The Longhorns were close to scoring again a minute later when Iowa State keeper Maddie Jobe saved Hannah Higgins’ shot. The first goal of the game was a beauty by Nina Frausing Pedersen. Off a 40-yard free kick, the midfielder from Denmark sent a teasing ball into the box that just missed a Longhorn head but bounced over the keeper into the net.

Texas continued to put pressure on the Iowa State defense with 13 shots in the first half. Defensively, the Longhorns did not let the Cyclones create any opportunities and gave up zero shots in the first half.

Starting off the second half, both teams looked tired — both had played two matches in three days. Even though each team would use numerous substitutes, fatigue was still a factor.

“These Sunday games are really difficult in our league because every game is hard,” said coach Chris Petrucelli. “We gave a lot of energy on Friday night.”

Picking up her second start of the season, Vanessa Ibewuike set up Texas’ first chance of the second half when she passed to Hannah Higgins, whose shot was blocked. It looked like Ibewuike could have scored herself after beating her defender, but she tried to be unselfish.

Later, Ibewuike’s generosity paid off when she set up Taylor Knaack to put the Longhorns up 2-0. After beating one tackle, Ibewuike used her speed to get to the end line and sent in a low hard cross that Knaack got her foot on to score her third goal of the season.

“All I had to do is put a body, a foot, a toe, anything on it, and it was going to go in,” Knaack said.

The Longhorns appeared to set to cruise control after the insurance goal, and the Cyclones made them pay. Iowa State scored their only goal of the game on a similar play to Knaack’s goal. Brittany Morgan sent in a cross from the left wing that Jennifer Dominguez was able to get a foot on to score in the 85th minute. The last five minutes were nerve-wracking for Texas, but the team was able to get its first conference win beating the Cyclones 2-1.

“It is nice to get a win. First win of the league and it’s points that we needed and a win that we needed,” Petrucelli said. 

Printed on Monday September 26, 2011 as: Longhorns recoup, notch first conference win

Texas goalkeeper Alexa Gaul will look to record her fifth shutout of the season when the Longhorns play Baylor and Iowa State this weekend.

Photo Credit: Fanny Trang | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorns open up Big 12 Conference play this weekend at home against Baylor and Iowa State at Myers Stadium.

It will be the first time that the Longhorns will be back on the field since their thrilling win against USC in overtime. Texas (6-2) needs to be prepared after having the week off when they play the Lady Bears (7-2-1, 0-1 in Big 12) on Friday.

The match between Baylor and Texas will most likely be more defense-oriented, with both teams giving up less than a goal per game. Also, the keepers on both sides are very talented: Baylor’s Courtney Seelhorst has five shutouts this season, while Longhorn Alexa Gaul has four. So even if attacking players are able to beat the defense, they still have to score on these great goalkeepers. Strong defense from both teams should mean the first to score will have a tremendous advantage.

The Longhorns will look to Vanessa Ibewuike, Hannah Higgins and Kylie Doniak to beat the Bears’ defense. Although Ibewuike has yet to start a game, the transfer from Purdue has scored in three of the past four games for Texas. The Longhorns will look for her to continue to be the spark off the bench. Doniak is the top goal scorer for the team with five goals, but Higgins is the team’s unsung hero. Higgins has an innate ability to beat her opponents off the dribble and set up her teammates. She leads the team with six assists.

On Sunday the Longhorns will face the Cyclones (6-3-1), a team Texas should expect to beat. Iowa State struggles away from home with a record of 2-3-1 on the road. The problem for the Cyclones is their weak offense and defense in road games; they have scored only five goals in six road games and given up nine goals. This bodes well for Texas, since the team has only given up one goal in its past three home matches.

These two games are the Longhorns’ key for the rest of the conference season. With homefield advantage, Texas needs two wins if they want to keep up with No. 2 Oklahoma State and Texas A&M.

Also, Texas has yet to be ranked in the top 25 this season, and a strong conference season will help improve their national ranking.

Printed on Friday, September 23, 2011 as: "Big 12 Conference play begins; Horns face Baylor, Iowa State."

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.

Texas forward Vanessa Ibewuike fights for position in the Longhorns’ 2-0 win over Dartmouth Sunday. It was the second straight match Ibewuike scored and Texas’ fifth consecutive victory.

Photo Credit: Danielle Villasana | Daily Texan Staff

It was not just the 100-degree heat and gusting winds that bothered the Texas offense on Sunday, but also Dartmouth’s defense. The Big Green was willing to park the bus in an effort to slow down Texas’ possession style attack.

“They made it hard for us, they were really organized,” said Texas head coach Chris Petrucelli. “They prevented us from playing short balls into the middle which we like to do.”

However, the Longhorns were patient and it paid off with two goals late in the first and second halves as Texas went on to win 2-0.

The first goal was scored by this weekend’s star, junior Vanessa Ibewuike, who found the back of the net twice in as many games. A sub, Ibewuike adds explosiveness and power to the Texas offense when she enters to the game.

“I saw her about to service so I just took off running and luckily it deflected off the defender’s head,” Ibewuike said of her goal. “And it went straight to me and all I had to do is get a foot on it.”

The second half was more of the same and Dartmouth was unable to muster much of an attack against the Longhorns. This may have been because of Texas’ ability to hold onto the ball and force the Big Green to chase.

With 17 players playing significant time for the Horns, Texas was able to wear down Dartmouth and the match started to present Texas opportunities late in the second half.

Ibewuike set up the second goal with a wonderful cross that Hannah Higgins finished for her first goal of the season. Higgins had another opportunity to score in the 87th minute, but Dartmouth keeper Tatiana Saunders made an excellent save to keep the score at 2-0.

The win was Texas’ fifth straight after starting off the season with a loss. The major change for Texas has been the defense that has only given up one goal during their current five game-winning streak.

“I feel like we have been solid in the back, even today we didn’t really give up a goal or scoring chances,” Petrucelli said.

The foundation of the defense has been keeper Alexa Gaul, who had three saves and a shutout on Sunday. The junior goalie is now tied with Jamie Strong and Cami Varnadore for the second most career shutouts.

Printed on September 6, 2011 as: Ibewuike establishes herself as reliable scoring threat in Horns win