The Longhorns are a long way from home in Chapel Hill, N.C., for the first round of the NCAA Championship against James Madison University.
After a tough loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 playoffs, the Longhorns are, once again, looking to their defense to lead the way. They haven’t made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament since 2008.
“We need to be really in tune defensively,” said head coach Chris Petrucelli. “JMU is a little tricky.”
The Longhorns, who received an at-large bid in the tournament, hold a 6-8-1 record in NCAA Championship action and have advanced to the Round of 16 three times since 2004.
With only seven goals allowed and five shutouts in conference play, Petrucelli is confident that the defense, led by Big 12 second team senior Erica Campanelli, can give the Longhorns an advantage.
“All year we have been strong defensively,” Petrucelli said. “We have been stingy defensively, we’ve been hard to score against. We have been very organized in the back, and I think that’s been our biggest strength this year.”
James Madison won its third straight Colonial Athletic Association championship this season and are coming off an eight-game undefeated streak.
Teresa Rynier leads the team with 29 points off nine goals and 11 assists and the team has eight shutouts this season. In 21 games, the Dukes have scored 38 goals and Texas has scored 29 in 20 games.
With JMU goalie Diane Wszalek, the Longhorns will have to pick it up offensively.
“I think a big key for us is how dangerous are we going forward and really taking advantage of the opportunities that we get,” Petrucelli said.
Petrucelli said the team could be better going forward and have been practicing keeping possession of the ball and staying fresh. Although disappointed with their first round exit in the Big 12 playoffs, the team is not focusing on that loss.
“I think all year long we have looked forward, and we have talked about not looking back,” Petrucelli said. “We were disappointed with our play against Oklahoma, but we got past it and now we’re moving forward again.”