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."