Following two scoreless halves and overtime, TCU gained a 4-2 edge in the penalty shootout to end Texas’ season earlier this month.
In the Big 12 preseason poll, the Longhorns were picked to finish sixth in the conference. But it was not looking good for them heading into Big 12 play. Texas had a difficult non-conference slate, which resulted in a 4-6-1 record that included a pair of big losses to Virginia and BYU that put a bleaker sheen around the start.
But in the final non-conference weekend, Texas turned the corner. Freshman goalkeeper Abby Smith returned from her stint with the U.S. U-20
Women’s National team and provided a significant spark.
Her first career start was also her first career shutout against Fresno State. Two days later, a solid Denver team, fresh off a win over Kansas, couldn’t get out of Austin with a victory, as Texas forced a tie to claim some momentum entering conference play.
Texas used that momentum to put together a 4-4 record in conference play that gave it a fourth place finish in the Big 12, two higher than predicted.
All of Texas’ conference losses came by a single goal, with several of them coming in extra time, far removed from the 3-0 and 5-0 losses it suffered in non-conference play.
“I was very pleased with the progress of the team,” Texas’ first-year head coach Angela Kelly said. “And the cohesion, the adaptability to new concepts and new system and the way in which we grew as a unit and were able to perform and play the way we were at the end of the season.”
Texas may have ended with four conference losses, but none of them were nearly as scathing as some non-conference ones. Texas did not allow a single opponent more than two goals, and only allowed one first half goal to a Big 12 team.
With her inaugural season complete, Kelly is building toward the future of the program. As with any first-year head coach, there is always some groundwork to lay out before the team can really flourish.
“The game of soccer is very simple.” Kelly said. “We don’t need to make it complex, but until we know who we are and what our foundation is, it doesn’t make sense to move onto a different level of tactics.”
With 20 returning starters, Texas will have a very experienced team full of talent next season. Smith and sophomore Sharis Lachappelle both received second team All-Big 12 honors and are joined by freshmen Ali Schmalz and Lindsey Meyer as All-Big 12 newcomers this season. In addition, sophomore defender Brooke Gilbert and freshman forward Kelsey Shimmick were selected to the All-Tournament team for the Big 12 championship. So there is plenty of returning talent for the team.
But Kelly is looking for more. Since the end of the season, she has been on the recruiting trail to get more talent for the 40 Acres.
“We want to get the best soccer players in the country to come to the University of Texas,” Kelly said.
She acknowledges that the standards are high at Texas. Championships are expected on all athletic fronts, and Kelly knows that her team will have to work for it.
With so many returning players, Texas can work in the spring as it would in the fall with a full roster.
“We can make this whole entire program and team stronger,” Kelly said. “The mentality can continue to grow.”
With the team’s growth this season, Kelly and the Longhorns are ready to take on a major role in the ever-changing Big 12. She has build a solid foundation, with plenty of talent, and is looking forward to what this team will become while she is at the helm.
“The future for Texas women’s soccer is very, very bright,” Kelly said.
Printed on Tuesday, November 20, 2012 as: Kelly looks forward after early exit