Zarnegar, Soccer rise to the occasion in Big 12 play
Sept. 24, 2012
Dalton Pool, Texas Media Relations
AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas Soccer is 2-0 in Big 12 Conference play for the first time since 2006. After a 4-0 victory over Iowa State in Ames on Friday, the Longhorns immediately turned around to record a 1-0 win over Oklahoma in Norman on Sunday to cap off a perfect opening-weekend road trip.
"I've been preaching to the team all season that we really want to challenge ourselves and continue to develop so we will be prepared for anything we may face in conference play, and hopefully after that postseason play," head coach Angela Kelly said after the Oklahoma game.
"I'm very happy for the team and proud of the way we started," Kelly said. "Our nonconference schedule was very tough, but that was what we wanted because it humbled us, exposed our weaknesses, and allowed us to address them in a very expeditious manner."
UT is now undefeated in its last four games, winning three and tying one. And while most of the focus this year has been on the youth of Texas and its impact early on, it has been an upperclassman who has elevated her level of play during the past four games to help turn the Longhorns' season around and get off to a perfect start in Big 12 play.
Gabby Zarnegar played every minute of those three Texas wins, and 87 of the 110 in the UT tie versus Denver. Over the past three games, Zarnegar has recorded five points on one goal and three assists. All three of the assists came last weekend as Texas opened up conference action.
Zarnegar, the junior midfielder out of Mission Viejo, Calif., has started all but two matches this season. Her minutes have been drastically increasing over the past five contests, however, and it has become increasingly obvious that Zarnegar has cemented herself in the center of midfield for the Longhorns.
"Gabby (Zarnegar) has been an unsung hero for us, playing just about every minute for us of late. She has been a mainstay in the midfield, has a tremendous engine, is very technical, and knows how to find the ball and distribute effectively," Kelly said of Zarnegar after Sunday's performance.
All three of Zarnegar's assists this past weekend came off of corner kicks. Friday night she found Lindsey Meyer's head for two goals and Sunday it was Sharis Lachappelle's turn to head home Zarnegar's service.
"I know that I need to look for our target players, but mostly I think our success has to do with our height and the confidence we have that we can score off of corners," Zarnegar shared. "So I know if I just do my part and get the ball in the right areas, my teammates will come through for me and do the rest."
Thanks to Zarnegar and the elevated play of all of the Longhorns, UT has now won back-to-back Big 12 games for the first time since 2010, started the conference season 2-0 for the first time since 2006, and recorded back-to-back shutouts on the opening weekend of conference play for the first time since 2002.
"I definitely feel more confident, and a lot of that has to do with [head coach] Ange [Kelly]. When your coach believes in you, it makes it a lot easier to play, and play well," said Zarnegar. "I think we are in a really great place right now as a team. We know we still have a lot to accomplish going forward, but we are really excited about what the rest of the season has in store."
UT has this weekend off before it takes on Oklahoma State at 7 p.m. next Friday, Oct. 5, in Austin for the first Big 12 home match of the season.