Options open up Soccer's offense
Aug. 30, 2011
Natalie England, TexasSports.com
AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas Longhorns use numbers as their strength. With six forwards who are virtually interchangeable, Chris Petrucelli’s soccer team is shaping into an arsenal of speed, unison and fresh legs that is giving the opposition fits.
The Longhorns have scored 11 goals in their past three victories, while averaging 14.8 shots a game for the season. UT’s 5-1 victory last Sunday against Cal State Northridge, played in 110-degree heat and not even 48 hours after a road triumph against the Georgia Bulldogs, was a testament to the Longhorns’ offensive options.
The tone was established by Taylor Knaack’s second goal of the season, which came at the 11:09 mark of the first half. Knaack’s footwork allowed her to plant the ball in the right side of the net, making good on a furious chase and feed by Kylie Doniak.
“Kylie actually did the work for the goal,” Petrucelli said. “She was the person who ran down the ball, got the ball in the line and found Taylor. Great effort by Kylie, great finish by Taylor.”
The Longhorns have now scored three or more goals in three consecutive matches for the first time since September of the 2006 season. And with their string of wins against Houston, Georgia and most recently the Matadors, UT has won three-straight matches by three or more goals for the first time in program history.
“The team works well together and you can tell that there is a lot of team chemistry, which is why it’s creating so many great opportunities, and they are scoring a lot,” junior keeper Alexa Gaul said. “It’s tough on a defense because they are working, going 90 minutes against these fresh legs. It’s hard dealing with legs that are explosive and strong.”
Three times in UT’s home win on Sunday, forwards teamed up to create goals for each other. First Doniak found Knaack, then shortly after intermission, Hannah Higgins set up a 25-yard strike for Doniak.
Knaack later returned Doniak’s early favor, providing a perfect pass that resulted in Doniak’s sharp header from 15 yards.
“We are just really close, and the chemistry is there,” Doniak said. “We know where we are going.”
UT’s cohesion and willingness to play for each other were best summed up by the fifth and final goal Sunday, when Gabby Zarnegar won her own foot race to save a ball from going out of bounds, and then connected with Vanessa Ibewuike, whose header ricocheted back to Lexi Harris. Harris ultimately converted Zarnegar’s determination into her second goal of the season.
“Those chances that we have, we have to make sure we make those chances,” Harris said.
With such a brief preseason training period -- UT opened the season just 17 days after reporting for official practice -- Petrucelli and his staff were only able to devote two training days to offensive implementation. That his Longhorns have now scored 12 goals on 58 shot attempts, set up primarily by will and effort, gives Petrucelli reason to expect even better output as the season wears long.
“We’ve obviously spent some time on free kicks, corner kicks, and that’s showing,” Petrucelli said. “We spent a lot of time in the preseason on the defending side of it. Everything we’re doing now is on the attacking side, but we haven’t had a lot of time yet. I think we can still get better.”