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Baylor Soccer

Baylor Soccer Missing Breakthrough, Ties Iowa 0-0

September 5, 2022
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WACO, Texas – Baylor Soccer drew with the Iowa Hawkeyes 0-0 late Sunday night despite a rather dominant showing on the field.

After a two-hour thunderstorm delay, the Bears started strong and took the game to the Hawkeyes. They put in 11 shots with six of them on goal, compared to four and two respectively for Iowa. However, Baylor just could not beat the visitors’ goalkeeper.

In coach Michelle Lenards’ own words, “I thought we dominated the game from the beginning. We had a great start to the game and came out with a lot of great energy. We were counter-pressing in a really positive way that I think showed huge, tremendous improvements from our last couple of games.“

There was a noticeable improvement for the green and gold today. They looked composed throughout, dangerous constantly, won the ball back very quickly when out of possession (counter-pressing) and most notably, relied on just 15 players.

Without scouring the stats sheets, I believe that makes the fewest players that Lenard has played in a game as Baylor’s head coach. And its not necessarily that coach is finding favorites or especially wants to play fewer players. 

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“It really just came down to that they were playing well,” Lenard said after the game. “I mean, we really felt like we were going to get one. There are players on the sideline that we really would have liked to have gotten in. We thought about them, but it was one of those things where the team is playing well so you don't want to take them out right before things click all the way.”

Disappointingly, things never did click all the way, though they did start off very promising. 

In the first minute of the game Sophomore forward and Auburn transfer Micah Beasley found Ashley Merrill in the box for an open header. Merrill couldn’t get it down on goal, but Jenna Patterson followed immediately with a shot that forced a save from the Hawkeyes’ keeper.

Merill continued to find dangerous positions centrally, putting a header on goal in the 13th minute and a curling shot off the crossbar in the 26th. That shot, having beaten the keeper, was perhaps the closest the Bears came to a breakthrough.

The last good chances of the half came on a Lorelai Stramrood header in the box and another Ashley Merrill shot. Stramrood popped her header up in the air after getting on the end of a cross in the 42nd minute. Merrill’s chance came off of a free kick that Beasley painfully won on the right wing in the 44th. It was a toe poke shot, but if it hadn’t been right at the keeper, it had every chance of going in.

At the other end of the field, Iowa had trouble threatening Baylor’s goal much at all in the first half. Ava Colberg and Kayley Ables both had really good games in defense. 

The halftime score was 0-0 and the early second half appeared to be a continuation of the first, but Iowa was getting a little stingier defensively. 

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“They adjusted, I thought they played a little bit more defensive even in the second half,” said coach Lenard, “They brought one of their midfielders back then they played with two defensive mids. So that definitely took away space centrally… They were just looking to counterattack.”

The shift to wholesale packing the box defensively and relying on quick counters with no more than three attacking participants served the Hawkeyes well. 

The Bears went from creating a bunch of chances and not being able to get the finish to creating fewer chances with the same core issue. Baylor only had four shots in the second half compared to seven in the first. 

“We didn't create quite as many quality chances,” Lenard said after the game, “but we still had some. really it just came down to execution in the final third, execution in front of the goal. Disappointed to tie that one.”

With a Kayley Ables header going wide right of goal in the 53rd minute, a near miss by Micah Beasley on a cross in the 54th, and a free kick being bounced around in the Iowa box before a save against the post in the 58th the Bears have every reason to feel disappointed.

Not to be understated, Iowa’s second-half adjustments made a difference. Not only did they concede fewer shots, but they created more chances for themselves offensively as the game got strung out. 

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Hawkeye forwards were making good runs at the Baylor defense during the last twenty or so minutes, so Colberg, Ables, and the Augustyn twins had to be on their toes. They were up to the challenge, but not without a nervy moment or two. 

In particular, the 87th minute was when the visitors could have stolen the game. Iowa sent a cross in and bodies went everywhere. The ball ended in the back of Baylor’s net, but not before the ref had blown his whistle for a foul. Ashley Merrill had been fouled in the scrum and an Iowa player received a yellow card for her actions. 

Immediately after that, Iowa won the ball back and sent a longer shot in at Lauren Traywick who had to dive to get her fingertips onto the ball and tip it onto the crossbar and out of play. 

Overall, while the finishing issues are old hat at this point for the program, the green and gold have taken some significant steps forward and are now confronting new challenges. 

“How we're gonna press, who's gonna press, who's gonna cover the passing lanes? If the press gets beat, who's gonna then cover for that? And then how does every other position shift and rotate?”, those are the questions that coach Lenard wants her players to be able to answer in game. “We've struggled with that prior to tonight, and I thought tonight we did an excellent job. We really smothered almost any attack they had outside of one or two long ball, counter-attacks they had toward the end.”

She also discussed the system that Iowa played was not what they had expected exactly and that the Hawkeyes were not lined up “straight ahead” with the Bears. On the fly adjustments had to be made and Lenard was proud of how her team handled that. 

As far as attacking goes, the Bears still have room to improve on decision-making and cohesiveness, like choosing to not put a cross in because no one is making a run into the box and knowing what your teammates are or are not doing in any given moment. The Bears want to be “more sophisticated in [their] decision making down around the 18-yard box” and they know the steps they need to take to achieve that goal. 

The lessons continue to come for Baylor Soccer, and thankfully they are not the same lesson every time. Clear steps are being taken by this team, and it appears confidence is growing as conference play nears.

WotM: Micah Beasley – She created a lot of chances, ran incredibly hard for the full 90 minutes, took a beating and registered two shots with one on goal. 

Up Next: at San Francisco Thursday 9/8 6 PM CST

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Baylor Soccer Missing Breakthrough, Ties Iowa 0-0

692 Views | 1 Replies | Last: 23 days ago by Jack Mackenzie
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