Soccer experiencing peaks and valleys thus far in 2006
While coach Chris Petrucelli hardly has time to sneak away to an amusement park during the season, he’s been able to “enjoy” the roller coaster courtesy of his team.
“It’s been interesting,” he said. “We’ve played really well in some games, but then...”
His voice trails off for a moment.
“We’ve played really poorly late in some games,” he said.
The Longhorns suffered a disappointing season-opening loss at Auburn, but then came home and upset third-ranked Penn State and 13th-ranked Illinois.
It was UT’s first victory against a top-five foe in five seasons.
It also marked the first time Texas had beaten two top 25 opponents in back-to-back games since 2003 when the Horns downed 22nd-ranked Nebraska and sixth-ranked Texas A&M.
Then, in mid-September, the Longhorns made a statement with consecutive road victories against New Mexico, Rice and LSU.
The triumph in Baton Rouge was particularly impressive, since the Bayou Bengals had 1,669 patrons on hand -- the second-largest soccer crowd in LSU history.
“I knew that was going to be a hard, hard game,” Petrucelli said. “But the concentration was there. That’s so important to have that concentration on the road.”
What -- or rather who -- also was there for Texas was junior forward Kelsey Carpenter, netting three goals in the 4-2 victory.
That performance continued an excellent run for the Allen, Texas, native who was brilliant in the back-to-back upsets of Penn State and Illinois, scoring the game-winning goals in each contest.
“I was dribbling and saw the right side completely open, so I slipped the ball past the defender,” Carpenter said of her game-winner against Illinois.
Petrucelli was a little more demonstrative in his comments to reporters.
“That was one of the best goals I’ve ever seen,” the coach stated. “It was unbelievable.”
Carpenter went 40 yards and then drilled the shot from 17 yards out.
“And that (defeating Illinois) showed that the win against Penn State wasn’t a fluke,” Carpenter added. “You don’t like to play overtime games, but I’m glad we got the win.”
It was quite a 48 hours for Carpenter, who was recognized as Soccer America National Player of the Week for the first time in her career.
“It was a huge honor,” she said. “And it gives our team recognition. It takes a whole team to win games because you don’t score a goal by yourself. If Amy (Burlingham) doesn’t score the first goal (against Penn State), there can be no game-winning goal.”
Burlingham, a senior from Costa Mesa, Calif., said the victory against Penn State demonstrated that Texas can play and defeat ranked teams.
“It solidifies us as a group,” she said. “And shows there’s a lot more to come.”
The fifth-largest crowd in Texas Soccer history -- 2,614 -- witnessed the win against the Nittany Lions at Myers Stadium.
Carpenter also earned Big 12 Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors for those feats, receiving her first Big 12 honor since being Rookie of the Week in October 2004.
Goalkeeper Dianna Pfenninger, likewise, accepted kudos from the Big 12 as the Defensive Player of the Week, allowing just one goal to Penn State and shutting out Illinois.
“It was nice to see Kelsey and Dianna be recognized for their hard work,” Petrucelli said. “They both played really well and deserved those honors.”
Senior forward Ashley Foster netted the game-winner at New Mexico Sept. 8 and scored twice one week later in a 5-0 blitz of Nicholls State in Austin. Those performances garnered the Athens, Ga., native Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week honors.
Ironically, the play of Carpenter, Burlingham, Foster and Pfenninger overshadowed the return to the team of sophomore Stephanie Logterman, who had been in Russia competing for the U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Soccer Team. Her first game was in New Mexico.
“We are trying to find out how to use her,” Petrucelli said of Logterman. “She’s practically still jet-lagged, so we want to be careful with her.”