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Baylor Soccer

Preview: Baylor Soccer Prepares for Florida Gators in Austin

August 24, 2022

Coach Lenard and the Baylor Soccer team are heading to Austin in search of their first win of the 2022 campaign. Before they face national No. 1 North Carolina, they have a great opportunity for victory against the Florida Gators. 

The SEC team was picked to finish last in their conference preseason poll, and are in a rather similar place to the Bears. They have a first-year head coach hailing from the Division II ranks in Samantha Bohon, though they are coming off of a much worse 2021 season at 4-12-4. 

Similar is also not the same. As coach Lenard said Wednesday before the team left for Austin, “Overall, we've got a little bit more to work with. So, we feel that we should be able to put together a good attack and hopefully convert some goals, but it's going to be a tough matchup. We need to perform well.”

Jack Mackenzie - SicEm365
Olivia Mack vs Wisconsin

The Gators do not have much returning talent of great note as far as stats have shown me. All of their players on the SEC preseason watchlist (four from every SEC school I believe) are midfielders though. They also return their starting keeper from last year. If they prove a tough matchup for the Bears, it will most likely be a comprehensive team effort.

On the other side, the green and gold have players on the roster that beat some very high-quality opponents last year like TCU. Not to mention that there are some very talented freshmen and transfers in the squad. As far as Florida goes, the Bears can go in with a confidence that comes from previous years and from the preseason this year. 

LSU was picked to finish tenth in the SEC preseason poll. Baylor thrashed them 3-0 in the preseason. And before you say “but that was just preseason”, this team from top to bottom is clearly not making that distinction. 

The positive performances against LSU and UTSA are not forgotten just because the regular season record does not reflect them. The effort they put forth and the experience they got is not gone now that the season has “officially” started. They can learn from both preseason and regular season. They can take confidence from both, not either one or the other.

That was point that coach made Wednesday. They work at being a “both-and” team, not an “either-or” team. The direct context of that quote was about marrying the best of the previous play style and mentality with coach Lenard’s new ones. I think it applies in both cases.

"We're trying to combine our old aggressive style with the new possession-based style,” junior forward Olivia Mack said, “and I think we learned last weekend that we can't give or take in either area. We're just learning to combine both."

The next lesson in that journey will come this week with both a good winning opportunity Thursday and a great challenge on Sunday. 

Playing opponents with such different statuses does allow the Bears more leeway to look inward, find areas they need to improve and adjust accordingly. Since they have more to work with than Florida, they can take time to learn how to best use the talent they have.

Then against No. 1 North Carolina, they can play with freedom from expectations. I’ll have more of the players’ take on that opportunity Saturday when I preview North Carolina.

Back to the game at hand: Florida.

Jack Mackenzie - SicEm365
Traywick (front) & Martin (behind)

"We're going change things up a little bit again tomorrow to try to find kids that are hungry to score goals,” coach Lenard said, “We want to be able to create different types of attacks. Most of our attacks have been coming from wide as of recently. We want to create more of a central attack.”

She went on to say that the Bears will try to put out a lineup with more of a presence in the midfield to help facilitate more buildup centrally rather than that wider development. That might come via a 3-4-3 formation, which the team has used in multiple games this year with some substitutes. 

Whatever form it comes in, it appears to be a smart idea with the amount of talented midfielders on the roster. Starters Ashley Merril, Maddie Algya, and Blythe Obar could be joined by Gabby Mueller, Skye Leach, Sarah Hornyak, or others. 

In goal, the Bears will be starting Lauren Traywick again, continuing the rotation at keeper. This appears not to be just a reaction to Wisconsin loss with Madison Martin in goal. Neither keeper has stepped up and taken the starting spot, so the competition remains ongoing.

The Bottom Line: The confidence and focus that have been brought up in almost every soccer presser this season needs to show up Thursday in Austin. The Bears don’t need to be perfect, but they need to trust themselves and solve whatever problems the Gators throw at them. They could really use the win.

TV/Streaming availability: LHN 4 PM CST

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Preview: Baylor Soccer Prepares for Florida Gators in Austin

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