The Texas soccer season started off with promise, as the team looked like they had the ability to contend in the Big 12. Losing 3-1 to Loyola Marymount in the team’s first game was all forgotten, as the Longhorns went on to win five straight games. Texas was playing beautiful soccer.
Fans who went to Mike A. Myers were not disappointed, as they would see Hannah Higgins terrorizing opposing defenses with her speed and dribbling ability. Kylie Doniak was the perfect No. 9, having the strength to push off center backs, while at the same time possessing the touch that is necessary from a lone striker. Midfielder Alexis Harris was the creative spark in the middle who performed a 30-yard strike against Houston. Vanessa Ibewuike was a dangerous option off the bench.
The defense was just as strong with centerbacks Lucy Keith and Nina Frausing Pedersen leaving opposing offenses frustrated. Even if the opposing team got by Keith and Pedersen, they still had to deal with goalkeeper Alexa Gaul. During the five-game winning streak, Gaul posted four shutouts and gave up only one goal. It seemed like every game she was climbing up the Texas soccer record book.
However, around midseason, the Longhorns went to California for the USC Invitational and when they came back, all their mojo was lost. Before the tournament, Texas had a 5-1 record, but after, they finished the year 6-8-1. That free-flowing soccer the Longhorns played at the beginning of the season was gone, and the team looked stagnant. Injuries to Taylor Knaack and Doniak only added to the team’s troubles.
The difficulties the Longhorns had finally compounded in a game late in the year against San Diego State. The Longhorns lost at home to a team they had no business losing to. Head coach Chris Petrucelli had a 30-minute meeting after the game, before interviews were conducted, obviously angry at the result.
Even with an irate coach, the team was unable to respond and three struggles continued. Texas’ problems could not be pinpointed to one thing and the squad was outplayed, outcoached and was out-hustled at the end of the year. If this program is going to improve, something needs to change. The good news is the Longhorns do not need to look far to find optimism; they just need to look at the tapes and see the stunning soccer they played at the beginning of the year.
Printed on Wednesday, November 16, 2011 as: Texas season ends early; What went wrong?