Matchup with Oklahoma State will test Smith after World Cup success

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Women's Soccer

Abby Smith missed the first portion of the season while playing with the U.S. under 20 team in the World Cup. Her immediate impact has turned around Texas’ season (Daily Texan file photo).

Photo Credit: Zachary Strain | Daily Texan Staff

With three shutouts under her belt, Abby Smith has quickly made her mark on the Texas program. She missed most of the nonconference schedule while playing internationally with the U.S. Under-20 Women’s National team. While Texas was at home fighting through a scoring slump, Smith was part of the U.S. team competing for the World Cup in Japan.

“Being with the U20 girls helped a lot,” Smith said. “Being over there because the speed of play is a lot faster, and coming back over here it’s also a high level.”

A 3-0 loss to Germany sent the U.S. in the quarterfinals as the second team from its group, but wins over North Korea and Nigeria set up the rematch with Germany in the final. The U.S. would not fall a second time and took the gold with a 1-0 win in the final Sept. 8.

Meanwhile, Texas had just completed a road trip through Utah that saw it shut out by both BYU and Utah while giving up six goals for its fifth and sixth losses of the season. Smith joined Texas for the first time with the Longhorns riding a four-game losing streak. Her presence would change that.

Smith shut out her first opponent as Texas rolled to a 3-0 win over Fresno State in Austin. Her next game was not quite as comfortable, as Denver came in fresh off of a win over Kansas and scored three goals on Smith. But Texas answered with three goals of its own to force the tie.

“[Getting Smith back] is huge. It helps tremendously,” sophomore Whitney Jaynes said. “Her communication is awesome. Coming from someone who plays in the back line, it helps so much. You just have this trust in her.”

Having only played two games as a Longhorn, Smith was thrown into conference play on the road against Iowa State and Oklahoma, and she did not disappoint. She recorded six saves on the way to shutouts of both Iowa State and Oklahoma as Texas went from the cellar to the penthouse in the Big 12 standings.

Despite being only a freshman and missing most of the offseason, Smith has gotten off to a fast start thanks to her time overseas with the U20 team. But Smith’s time away has not dampened her expectations.

“I expected all the girls to be ready to go, and obviously we were because we won two big games,” Smith said. ”Our expectations are on both sides because they were expecting me to be ready and I was expecting them to be ready for the game, and we were.”

Smith brought new energy to the Longhorns who were struggling through their first season under head coach Angela Kelly. But Kelly was not worried. A similar start in her first season at Tennessee had prepared her for the ups and downs that came along with the grind of the season.

Now Texas must prepare for what may be its biggest test of the season. The Longhorns host Oklahoma State Friday. While the Cowgirls are off to a rough start in Big 12 play, they are still the defending regular season champions and are one of the best teams in the conference. They are one of only three teams in the Big 12 with at least 10 wins and are the highest-ranked team in the conference at No. 22. But Texas has had the week off to prepare for the Cowgirls’ attack, but more importantly, it’s given Smith a week off to rest.

“We chose not to schedule a game this weekend knowing that Abby Smith would have to be emotionally and physically responding to what would hopefully be a World Cup victory,” Kelly said.

With the World Cup running into early September, Smith has played 23 games since February while traveling all over the world.

Texas and Oklahoma State will kick off Friday at 7 p.m.

Printed on Friday, October 5, 2012 as: Smith gives Texas new energy