If the Horns were to ever drop a game this season purely from not taking an opponent seriously, Friday would be the perfect opportunity for something like that to happen. Baylor comes into Austin as an extremely dangerous team to start the Big 12 season against for the Horns.
Flying under the radar, Baylor has been flat out winning. They are now 7-2-1 with a very close loss to A&M just last weekend. Baylor pounded UTSA at home in August by a score of 5-1 while the Horns were only able to get two goals on the Roadrunners a couple of days later. Last weekend Baylor played A&M so close that the score was tied at 1 apiece until the last two minutes of the game when Chelsea Jones scored for A&M to squeak out a victory. (And yes, this is the same A&M team that beat powerhouse UNC in their own house in Chapel Hill two weeks ago.)
Baylor is dangerous. They’ve gotten a taste of winning and they like it. Now they’re coming to the home of what they probably consider to be the Evil Empire in the form of Texas (you know, with its conference disintegrating Death Star, the Longhorn Network) and they’d love nothing better than to humiliate Texas in their own house. In fact I can pretty much guarantee that’s what their thinking right now.
On the offensive side of the ball, Baylor brings leadership in the form of Dana Larsen (4 goals so far this season), speed in the form of Natalie Huggins (3 goals, 2 assists, apparently can run forever, with jets), athleticism in the form of Hanna Gilmore (3 goals, 2 assists), and an air machine in the form of Alexa Wilde (3 goals, all of them coming off headers, 2 from corner kicks). These four Bears have put in a total of 13 goals for Baylor in 10 games. And they’re young. Huggins and Wilde are freshman, while veterans Larsen and Gilmore are juniors. Baylor brings no starting senior midfielders or forwards.
On the back line, Austin’s own Staz Salinas is the leader of defensive corps for Baylor. She seems to be one tough cookie. A quote from her after last weekend’s close loss to A&M: “It sucks to lose, but we grew from tonight. My freshman year, we were just holding on and got maybe two breakaways the whole game. This year it was 50-50, even out, and A&M knows that we had them right there. That’s why they couldn’t do much. We countered, they countered, and they just finished.” Salinas also apparently gave a blistering halftime speech to her team after a scoreless first half against North Texas two weeks ago. Her Bear teammates responded by charging out and banging in two goals in the second half to win the game.
In order to win this game, the Horns had better have the Bear gun fully loaded and ready from the get-go.
Game Time 7:00pm
Mike Myers Stadium, Austin, Texas (Directions)
Friday, September 23, 2011
Coverage on The Longhorn Network.
And on Twitter: @LonghornSoccer
UPDATE: The Post-Game Report was filed here.