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Baylor Soccer

Preview: Baylor Soccer Prepares for Conference Opener vs Oklahoma

September 22, 2022

The Baylor Bears (2-4-2) welcome the Oklahoma Sooners (5-2-2) to Betty Lou Mays Field on Friday night to startle Big 12 soccer season for both programs.

The Sooners are riding high off of their best non-conference season since 2016 at least. They have not lost in the last six games and have won the last four.

The competition level has been nowhere near what the Bears have had to face, but wins are wins. Oklahoma beat North Texas 3-2 and Tulsa 1-0 while also tying No. 15 SMU and Houston.

Based on form, Oklahoma has the edge, but this is one of the more winnable games for Baylor in Big 12 play. The Bears will be at home, well-rested, and hungry to make the most of the reset that the start of conference play can be.

Despite the disappointing results, the Bears have shown good mental fortitude and competitiveness throughout the schedule.

“I definitely think it's a mental test,” said senior forward Jenna Patterson, but she added, “you're not doing it just for yourself, but you're doing it for like the whole team.”

Goalkeeper Madison Martin also spoke to the balance the team takes looking back at results and looking forward to Big 12 play:

“Of course we need to look at a record, but at the end of the day, it comes down to the next game is our most important one. Just looking at it with that perspective it is a fresh start.“

So looking at this chance at a fresh start against Oklahoma, Martin noted the physicality that OU will bring to Waco and how the Bears will need to “assert [their] presence”.

Coach Michelle Lenard's take on the Sooners was very similar and a bit more tactically in-depth.

“We feel like it's a winnable game for us. They're gonna be tough. They're gonna be physical. Pretty direct. We think our style matches up well. We should get on the ball quite a bit.”

For the Sooners, the attack has come primarily through Alexis Washington (No. 12), who leads the team with five assists, and Emma Hawkins (No. 2), who has scored five goals this year all in the last six games. Both players are new to the Big 12 with Hawkins transferring in from Central Arkansas and Washington being a freshman.

Defensively, Sheridan Michel stands out with strong recent performances landing her a Big 12 defender of the week award and a spot on the Top Drawer Soccer team of the week last week.

Statistically, OU averages about 16 shots per game with a little less than half on goal. They look like a more physical team, having racked up 19 yellow cards and 2 red cars to date compared to Baylor’s 4 yellows and zero reds.

“I think this team is probably near the top of how physical [the Big 12] are and a lot of teams will do that to try to level the playing field,” said coach Lenard. “We've gotta play fast, so the physicality doesn't slow the game down and doesn't put us in situations to lose the ball or be injured.”

The veterans in green and gold should be very ready for that style of play from Oklahoma, but the freshmen and transfers will need to settle in fast and lean on the tough non-conference experiences in order to thrive on Friday night.

I will just cap this preview off with a few quotes from Coach Lenard that I feel recap everything quite well: (note these responses were not back to back or in response to the same question)

  • “I think if we're losing these games and we're looking back and we don't have the ball ever, and we're not creating chances and we're not pressing well, and all these other metrics are stacked against us, then you're feeling pretty defeated. But that's not the case at all. Really the UNC game and the Wisconsin game were the only games where I felt like those were legitimate losses.”
  • “I think going into conference play, we feel really confident that our record is not a good reflection of our overall level.”
  • “We feel like we could compete in every game. [The players] are excited for Big 12 play.”

The Bottom Line: The Bears need to be decisive and play with great speed and anticipation to not get bogged down. If they can do that, they have every chance to win this one.

Kickoff is set for 7 PM and the game will be streaming on ESPN+.

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Preview: Baylor Soccer Prepares for Conference Opener vs Oklahoma

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