The Austin Aztex hosted the inaugural ATX Pro Challenge this weekend at Mike A. Myers Stadium. The tournament hosted 12,000 fans over the weekend.
Photo Credit: Lauren Ussery | Daily Texan Staff

Sunday afternoon, D.C. United hoisted an armadillo trophy in the air in the middle of the pitch at Mike A. Myers stadium after winning the inaugural ATX
Pro Challenge.

But the biggest winner this weekend might just be the city of Austin.

During two-day tournament, 12,000 fans watched MLS teams compete in Austin for the first time and, as the organizers of the event hoped, showed there is certainly support for soccer in the hill country. 

While Austin’s hopes of getting an MLS expansion team is still a challenging one, the large turnout is a big feather in the cap for those looking to bring big-time soccer to the area.

Before this weekend, many were skeptical about the tournament, especially when the early ticket numbers were announced last week. Some thought fans traveling from the Dallas area to support FC Dallas and the Austin Aztex supporters would be out in force. The number of “neutral” fans who attended the event surprised everyone.

The mix of hard-core supporter groups, such as the Dallas Beer Guardians, Screaming Eagles and Eberly’s Army, and the neutral fans there to see good matches created an interesting and exciting environment no matter who eventually won.

But, there are still two obstacles that form a formidable wall in front of Austin’s goal to net an MLS team.

First, one of the “unofficial” requirements for MLS expansion teams these days is to have a downtown stadium. It’s what has kept soccer legend David Beckham’s Miami franchise from getting off the ground. 

Any Austinite knows that downtown real estate is hard to come by, so any group working on getting an MLS team to the City is going to have to work that out before a bid goes any further.

The second and bigger issue is the limit MLS commissioner Don Garber has placed on the current round of expansion. In 2013, Garber stated that the goal for the league was to expand to 24 teams by 2020. Currently, the league has 20 teams. Atlanta and Los Angeles are entering the league in 2017, and Miami will join as soon as it get its issues sorted out.

That leaves one spot left for many vying cities, including Minneapolis, Sacramento and San Antonio. And, honestly, San Antonio has a better shot than Austin at the moment.

But that doesn’t mean this tournament and all the work that went into it was in vain; it showed that there’s support for soccer in Austin.

And maybe one day, when MLS opens for expansion again, Austin will be right there competing for a team to call its own.

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

The women’s soccer season came to a close Friday with a 2-1 loss to No. 12 Notre Dame in College Station.

Texas fought hard against one of the best teams in the country, but an 85th-minute score by Notre Dame forward Karin Muya broke the stalemate and sent the Fighting Irish to a third-round match against Texas A&M on Sunday. 

“Credit to Notre Dame, there was execution at the end, and that was what it was going to take,” head coach Angela Kelly said. “It was a battle. Our midfield battled with one of the top midfields in the country.”

Things looked promising for the Longhorns early on, as the Texas backline, which has been solid all season, continued its tough play Friday. The defenders stifled the Irish set pieces, and a sliding clearance by senior defender Julie Arnold kept the Irish off the board for much of the first half.

A goal by junior midfielder Lindsey Meyer just after the 19-minute mark gave the Longhorns an early advantage. Senior midfielder Sharis Lachappelle floated a pass from the left corner that sailed to the far post in position for the 5-foot-9 Meyer to nod a shot into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.

The Longhorn defense looked like it would hold the Irish scoreless for the rest of the first half, but Muya’s 42nd-minute cross found Notre Dame forward Anna Gilbertson, who whipped in a shot from 9 yards out to knot the game up just before halftime.

The second half looked like it would remain deadlocked, as the Irish did not manage a second-half shot until the 63rd minute. 

Then Muya, the Notre Dame freshman phenom, struck again. A long floater from the left boundary sailed over the Texas defense and fell right at Muya’s feet. She fired a shot that squeezed just inside the left post to break the deadlock with five minutes to go in regulation.

Ensuing Texas attempts to equalize sailed wide, and the roller coaster 2014 season ended with the Irish taking away a 2-1 comeback win.

The loss was the last match for some of the Longhorns’ most important contributors on the season. The backline will graduate starters Arnold and senior defenders Brooke Gilbert and Whitney Jaynes. Midfield stalwart Lachappelle will graduate, too.

“I’m really proud of our senior class and the strides that this program has made in the short time we’ve been here,” Kelly said. “We are going to use this as a platform to
go forward.”

Photo Credit: Mike McGraw | Daily Texan Staff

After losing a heartbreaking penalty shoot-out against No. 9 West Virginia in the second round of last weekend’s Big 12 tournament, all the Texas women’s soccer team could do was cross its fingers and hope that a late-season surge would be enough to get the Longhorns back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011.

The results exceeded even head coach Angela Kelly’s expectations. Texas ended up getting not just a tournament bid but also the opportunity to host the opening round in Austin against the Conference USA champion Rice Owls on Friday at 5 p.m. 

“Its great to have the seniors play in front of the home crowd for another time when you really weren’t expecting it,” Kelly said. “That’s like icing on the cake for our senior class.”

The Longhorns will enter their second postseason tournament with a huge boost of confidence following last weekend’s strong showing against two ranked opponents in the Big 12 Championship.

“We did everything correct, and it’s just a testament to our program and how much we’ve grown since the beginning of the year,” senior midfielder Sharis Lachappelle said. “We came out with what was to be called two ties against two top-15 programs, and so, for our program, that’s just incredible.”

If the Longhorn defense and its stalwart junior goalkeeper Abby Smith, who conceded just one goal in two matches last weekend, can play like it did in Kansas City, Texas could find itself making a deeper run than many expected at the beginning of the year.

However, Texas will need all 11 of its players to mesh if it wants to knock off the Owls. Rice finished the season with a 14-3-3 record and played well against opponents from the top conferences, tieing Arkansas and losing by a goal in overtime to a strong Baylor team.

The Rice offense — led by junior forward Lauren Hughes and her 14 goals — has lit up the scoreboard all season. The Owls also boast the Midfielder of the Year in senior Quinny Truong. 

Rice will pose a challenge for the Longhorns, but a strong end to the season and an ever-improving crop of young talent should put the team in good position to make a tournament run.

“We can do this,” freshman midfielder Morgan Murphy said. “We can hang with anyone, and I don’t even think we think we’ve played our best soccer yet.”

Junior goalkeeper Abby Smith and the Longhorns went just 6-7 in their final 13 regular season games, but they are focused on turning things around in the Big 12 tournament.

Photo Credit: Mike McGraw | Daily Texan Staff

Texas women’s soccer sailed through the first six games of the season without making an appearance in the loser’s column.  

However, the Longhorns’ remaining 13 games were a turbulent series of contests that saw Texas go 6-7-0, including a 3-1 road loss at the hands of a struggling TCU team and a loss against Oklahoma State to close out the regular season.  

None of that will matter Wednesday. The Longhorns can forget their tumultuous regular season and look to make an impact in the quarterfinal round of the Big 12 tournament against No. 10 Texas Tech at 2 p.m. in Kansas City, Missouri.

“We have a new season starting on Wednesday in the Big 12 tournament, and that’s our focus,” senior midfielder Sharis Lachappelle said. “We’re going to put [the Oklahoma State loss] behind us and go and win that tournament.”

The Longhorns and Red Raiders met in Austin in a September tilt that served as the high-water mark in Texas’ 2014 campaign. That contest saw freshman Olivia Brook score the golden goal, which led Texas to an overtime upset against a 9-0 Red Raider team that was the sixth-ranked team in the nation at the time.

Things slowly went downhill from that point in the season, but the Longhorns have gone through somewhat of resurgence in recent weeks. They knocked off Oklahoma and Baylor in consecutive road contests during the waning games of the season, and the once stagnant offense showed some welcome signs of life toward the end of the season.

The Red Raiders are coming in to the tournament on a torrid streak of four consecutive wins, including a 6-1 dismantling of Iowa State on Sunday.

The Texas Tech offense has been on point all season, averaging 1.94 goals and 17.6 shots per game. Junior forward Janine Beckie, the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, spearheads the Red Raider attack with a team-leading 13 goals.

The Longhorn defense, led by senior defender Brooke Gilbert, has the challenge of going against one of the most balanced teams in the conference. Senior defender Jaelene Hinkle of Texas Tech earned her fourth first-team All-Big 12 selection and was one of six Red Raiders on All-Big 12 teams.

If the Longhorns are to deal a second loss to end the Red Raiders’ season, it will likely come at the gloves of junior goalkeeper Abby Smith. She closed the regular season with a career-high 10-save performance against Oklahoma State, helping earn her first team All-Big 12 honors.

Even if Texas isn’t able to beat Texas Tech, it still has a slim chance of making the NCAA tournament, but the Longhorns’ spot will only be guaranteed if they can pull off a victory in the quarterfinal round and then go on to become Big 12 champions.

“The season is just beginning,” head coach Angela Kelly said. “Everybody’s heading to Kansas City to win the tournament. We’re going to take it [one] game at a time.”

Freshman midfielder Chelbi Orrick and the Longhorns have had a tough schedule that isn’t letting up anytime soon, as Texas takes on No. 11 Kansas on Friday.

Photo Credit: Mike McGraw | Daily Texan Staff

The best teams in the nation will continue their barrage on the women’s soccer team’s schedule this weekend when the No. 11 Kansas Jayhawks (13-1-0) take on Texas (7-4-2) on Friday at 7 p.m. at Mike A. Meyers Stadium.

Head coach Angela Kelly does not seem too concerned about the possibility of her team collapsing under the pressure of yet another ranked conference foe. Kelly, instead, gushed over her team’s performance against Iowa State and sounded like a head coach with postseason aspirations.

“We played some of the best soccer that I’ve seen Texas soccer play since I’ve been here on Friday evening,” Kelly said. “It tells me that they are earning everything that they’ve been given. That they’re recovering. That they are physically, mentally and emotionally mature, and that excites me for this program.”

The Jayhawks will try to test that maturity with a high-pressure defense that has smothered some of the best teams in the nation. Kansas cruises into Austin with a mere seven goals allowed through 14 games. Senior goalkeeper Kaitlyn Stroud has been the anchor of the Jayhawk defense, repelling a Big 12-best 90 percent of opponents’ shots on goal.

The Jayhawks’ elite back line should match up very well against a Longhorn squad that in recent weeks has struggled, especially in the first half, to light up the scoreboard.   

“Obviously we need to work on some things, and I think we’ve taken care of that,” senior defender Whitney Jaynes said. “I think it’s good playing hard in the second half and knowing that we can come out hard in the first half too, so we’ll just keep working on that.”

The Longhorns have been able to secure a 2-2-1 record against ranked opponents this season, but, if they want to continue that success, they will have to threaten the opposing net for the entire 90 minutes.

“We want to be a 90-minute squad, and that’s from the opening whistle, and we want to maintain that kind of consistency throughout the course of a match,” Kelly said. “We’ve talked a lot to our players about that, and I think they’re up to the challenge.”

If the Longhorns can play the same high-energy tight press defense that shut out then No. 6 Texas Tech and held then No. 1 UCLA scoreless for 86 straight minutes, Kansas may have to wait a few more years to get its first win in Austin.

Pharmacy senior Scott Jermain runs down the field, ball in hand Monday night during an intramural flag football game at Whitaker field. Jermain is a part of an intramural team made up of pharmacy majors called “Subox-owned.”

Photo Credit: Sarah Montgomery | Daily Texan Staff

A losing Texas Longhorns football team may not only affect game attendance but also registration for intramural flag football, according to a Division of Recreational Sports official. 

Between 2011 and 2013, the number of total registered teams for intramural flag football in the fall decreased 12.9 percent, from 387 to 337, according to Rec Sports. As of Monday, there are 284 teams registered for this season. Darci Doll, senior assistant director for Rec Sports, said the registration deadline has been extended to Friday to give teams more time to sign up.

Doll said the highest number of flag football teams in recent years was 416 in fall 2006, a few months after Texas’ national championship win at the Rose Bowl.  

“When the campus community is excited about a certain sport, they want to be involved in it as more than just a fan,” Doll said in an email.

In an interview, Doll said, while fall flag football registrants have been declining, the popularity of intramural soccer has been increasing over the past four to five years. The number of total registered fall soccer teams has increased 5.2 percent, from 232 in 2013 to 244 this season, and is still rising, according to Doll.

Doll said the growth in soccer registrants could be a result of both the popularity of the summer’s FIFA World Cup in Brazil and the increase in prevalence of the sport across the state.

“We see more students who have enrolled in UT who have played recreational soccer all their lives,” Doll said. 

Men and women are exposed to soccer more equally, Doll said, unlike football, which is primarily played by men. 

Doll also said the decline in number of flag football teams could stem from the addition of a spring intramural football league. Since the league was first piloted in spring 2013, registration expanded from 64 teams to 96 teams by spring 2014, according to Doll.

“Since students [know] they could play again in the spring, they may be playing on fewer fall teams,” Doll said.

Chad Zimmerman, a Rec Sports graduate assistant, said the number of flag football registrants could also be affected by this year’s increase in registration fee from $100 to $120, but, since the fee increase applies to all sports, it should be affecting more than just flag football.

“If it were really a decrease because of the fee, then you would think it would be an even spread across all sports,” Zimmerman said.

Nicholas Hodges, an intramural supervisor and flag football referee, said the fee increase could have a larger effect on students who play on multiple teams. He said this may cause students to opt to play on only one team to avoid paying more money.

Hodges said he also thinks changes to parking could be affecting flag football team registration this semester. People who park at Whitaker Fields, where students play intramural football and soccer, are now required to have a University parking pass at all times, whereas, in previous years, parking was free after 5 p.m.

“For me, I have a car, but I don’t have a parking pass,” Hodges said. “I don’t want to buy a parking pass just so I can ref. If I want to have a team, I have to think about, ‘Oh, can my whole team get there? Do we all have parking passes?’ And so that’s my main issue.”

Additional reporting by Reanna Zuniga

Senior midfielder Sharis Lachappelle, who leads the team with 19 shots, will try to add to her total Friday against a UCLA team that has allowed just 18 shots on the season, five of those on goal.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

A pair of losses on the road this past weekend put a halt to the women’s soccer team’s otherwise promising start to the season, and it won’t get any easier this weekend when the reigning NCAA champions roll into Austin. 

No. 1 UCLA (6-0-1) will be the first test of the weekend on Friday at 7:30 p.m. before Texas heads down the road to San Marcos to take on Texas State (4-2-1) Sunday at 7 p.m. The games will give the unranked Longhorns (4-2-2) a chance to halt their current skid and vault them into consideration for a top-25 rank. Or, very easily, they could continue the skid and make their uphill climb much more difficult. 

“I believe at any given moment, [the Bruins] have eight senior starters that have played internationally,” head coach Angela Kelly said. “We will pursue the best talent in the country, and if UCLA is the reigning national champion, then we want to use this game as a litmus test and go after it.”

The defending champion Bruins are riding a surge that started early last season and shows no signs of stopping. UCLA’s last defeat came 29 games ago when the team lost a 1-0 match on the road against North Carolina over a year ago.

At first glance, UCLA senior goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland appears to have been the driving force behind the Bruins’ success in the early going. The national team stalwart has recorded 638 consecutive minutes of shutout ball this season and holds the UCLA record for career shutouts with 42.

However, Rowland may not even be the most feared aspect of the Bruin defense. That title goes to the UCLA defenders, who have allowed a mere 18 shots all season, with only five of those on goal.

If the Longhorns do have a silver lining in their matchup against the best defense team   in the nation, it is the Texas offense, led by freshman forward Olivia Brook and senior defender Brooke Gilbert; it has had no problems creating shots recently. Even in last weekend’s shutouts, the team managed 14 shots in each game.

The Longhorns appear poised to take on the challenge despite being massive underdogs.

“All the pressure is on them,” senior midfielder Sharis Lachappelle said. “They have everything to lose, and we have everything to gain.”

Texas State is no UCLA, but the Bobcats have put together a solid showing early on and their defense has only allowed five goals all season. Texas State is undefeated at home, which does not bode well for a Longhorn team that has struggled on the road this season.

Kelly, though, does not appear worried about her team’s early road troubles.

“It would be similar for any squad,” Kelly said. “It’s just not as much of a controlled environment, but any high-level quality player is used to those types of things.”

Freshman forward Olivia Brook became the first Texas freshman to score five goals in her first five career matches.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

The women’s soccer team (4-0-2) will continue its trend of playing at America’s finest beach towns this weekend at the USF Soccer Classic in Tampa, Florida. The Longhorns will take on two tough opponents — Central Florida (3-2-0) at 3:30 p.m. Friday and South Florida (3-2-1) at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.

Texas has gone all over the U.S. so far this season, beginning with a trip to Hawaii, defeating Texas A&M-Corpus Christi last weekend and going to southern Florida this weekend. 

“We’ve played — I’m not even sure how many — different conferences in different time zones,” head coach Angela Kelly said. “We’re here to put Texas on the map.”

The Longhorns have serious business to take care of this weekend, which will cut into any potential beach time. Central Florida was ranked No. 17 last week with its only loss coming against No. 12 Texas A&M, but a 1-0 loss to an unranked Georgia team Sunday dropped the Knights out of the top 25.

South Florida was shut out twice in its first three games of the season, but the Bulls have rebounded since then and are in the midst of a three game-winning streak.

Texas should have no problem facing the challenge. The Longhorns are undefeated through six games for just the second time in program history, and their offense has gotten a huge boost from one of its newcomers.

Freshman forward Olivia Brook has been the focal point of the Longhorn attack and recently became the first freshman in program history to score five goals in the first five matches of her career. The attacker’s efforts earned her the title of Big 12 Conference Newcomer of the Week.

“She’s been terrific for our program at the beginning of her freshman year,” Kelly said. “She’s a sponge tactically, is always well-prepared and is the epitome of hard work through demonstrating 100 percent effort in training and preparation each day.”

Senior defender Whitney Jaynes runs downfield against TCU last season. Jaynes tallied Texas' winning goal Monday against Hawaii to give the Longhorns their win of the season. 

Photo Credit: Joe Capraro | Daily Texan Staff

Texas women’s soccer scored a late goal Monday night, securing a 2-1 victory against Hawaii at Waipi’o Peninsula Stadium in the Outrigger Resorts Shootout.

Texas fell behind early as Hawaii’s senior midfielder Krystal Pascua opened up the game with a goal in the fifth minute.

But the Rainbow Wahine’s lead didn’t last long as Longhorn junior midfielder Lindsey Meyer scored the equalizer in the 22nd minute.

After Meyer’s goal, the game stayed even through the rest of the first half. The Longhorns were finally able to break through in the 73rd minute when senior defender Whitney Jaynes scored an unassisted goal to give Texas a 2-1 lead. This was Jaynes’ first goal of the season and her second career goal.

Hawaii was unable to find the back of the net in the waning minutes, and Texas won its first game of the season and improved to 1-0-1 to start the year.

Four Longhorns were named to the Outrigger Resorts Shootout All-Tournament team: senior defender Brooke Gilbert, senior midfielder Sharis Lachappelle, junior midfielder Lindsey Meyer and junior goalkeeper Abby Smith.

Texas will play the Arkansas Razorbacks in its home opener Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger raises the trophy after the World Cup final soccer match between Germany and Argentina at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Sunday. 

Photo Credit: AP Photo/ Martin Meissner | Daily Texan Staff

The 2014 World Cup broke records. It defined excitement. It showed us the country of Brazil in a way we’ve never seen it before. And it brought us one of the best soccer tournaments in recent history. But now, it is gone. In its absence over the next four years, we will have these memories:

The fall of the greatest

It will be written in books and shared down generation lines, but nothing will ever compare to witnessing what happened on Tuesday, July 8. Brazil, the host nation and greatest international soccer team that has ever existed, lost worse than anybody could have ever thought was possible. The 7-1 dismantling by the eventual champions Germany was two hours that stopped the world and will probably never happen again.

A superb host

Many factors made this World Cup great but at the root of it all was the host country, Brazil. The soccer-loving culture fit perfectly, as expected. The atmosphere of games was unmatched. The scenic views of surrounding mountains and the iconic “Christ the Redeemer” statue in Rio De Janeiro topped it off. There was little doubt left of the impact a South American host can have on a World Cup. It’s where soccer is religion and where international tournaments clearly belong.

The surprises

Who could have predicted the superstardom of Colombia midfielder and World Cup Golden Boot winner James Rodríguez? Or the unbelievable surge Costa Rica, a nation of roughly 4.5 million, made to the quarterfinals stage? And what about the last minute victories, the improbable loses, the penalty shoot-out finishes and the consistently close games? Add the social media frenzy with each game and the dramatic story lines that followed marquee names like Luis Suárez and Neymar, and nothing was left out of this tournament.

A showcase of perfect play

In June, we witnessed what perfect basketball could look like through the NBA champions San Antonio Spurs. And in this World Cup, we got to experience what that looked like on a soccer pitch. It shouldn’t be surprising that Germany tied the 2002 champion Brazil team for best goal differential in World Cup history, or that the team’s worst game was a 2-2 tie against Ghana in group play. Their play against Brazil put them on another level, and the way they picked apart teams with their defensive, but aggressive, style was incredible. It was soccer at its finest. Germany will be remembered as 2014 champions, but they’ll be more revered for the way they did it.

The tides possibly turning

Yes, a powerhouse German team did win. And all four of the semifinal teams are considered soccer greats, but down the line, other groups are emerging and ready to take the grand stage next World Cup. This tournament showed true promise of what the next World Cup could look like. Sides like Colombia, Belgium, Mexico, Costa Rica, and even the U.S., demonstrated the potential for less historic countries to make an impact. So many of these games were great because the margin of talent has come closer together between nations. This makes for a 2018 World Cup that should draw heavy attention. Because more than ever, the golden trophy could end up in the hands of first-time champions.