Texas won consecutive conference tournaments in 2005 and 2006 but has since struggled to finish near the top of the league. Out went Chris Petrucelli and in came Angela Kelly. Texas wanted to return to the top of the Big 12 conference, and it may have chosen the right coach for the job.
Before she was named head coach at Tennessee, the Volunteers were an afterthought in the SEC. All of that changed when Kelly took over. Tennessee had never been to the NCAA tournament or won an SEC tournament game before she arrived.
She left the Tennessee program with five Sweet 16 appearances in the NCAA tournament, three consecutive SEC regular season titles and four SEC tournament championships between 2000 and 2008. She was also named SEC Coach of the Year for three consecutive seasons from 2003 to 2005.
Texas has enjoyed championship-level play from a variety of sports over the past decade. Championship-level performance is expected from all aspects of Texas athletics, and when not playing at a championship level, changes are made.
Kelly has had some experience with taking programs to the next level, and Texas has some room to grow. Since finishing third in the conference regular season in 2006, Texas has only finished in the top four once.
So far in her inaugural season, things haven’t quite gone as planned. Texas is last in the conference with a 3-6-1 record and is one of only three teams in the conference not to be riding a win streak into conference play. A big reason for this is that Texas has allowed the most goals in the conference, with 18 goals allowed. Only Oklahoma and West Virginia have also allowed at least 10 goals.
However, Texas is coming off of what may be its best weekend of non-conference play. It got a much needed win over Fresno State last Friday and forced a tie at home against a Denver team that had just beaten Kansas in Lawrence.
Kelly has also dealt with this kind of adversity before. In her first season, Tennessee took a 5-6 record into conference play, where a 7-2 record was good for second in the Eastern division. Her non-conference record doesn’t exactly stand out with a .640 record, but her .721 record in conference play does. Kelly’s teams win the crucial games and are always dangerous. Despite a 5-5-1 conference record going into the 2008 SEC Tournament, Tennessee was able to win the conference title and secure an NCAA tournament bid.
It’s not time to panic over the state of the Texas soccer program. If Kelly’s history is any indication, things may be starting to turn around on the field. And with freshman keeper Abby Smith returning from her one-month stint with the U.S. U-20 National team, things could start to get interesting starting with Friday’s match against Iowa State.
Printed on Wednesday, September 19, 2012 as: Horns still fighting after dreadful start