Every week throughout the season, former UCLA and U.S. Under-16 National Team midfielder Jessica Stamp provides color analysis for the Texas Soccer Web Broadcasts and her perspective on the team's performance over the last week. A Houston, Texas, native, Stamp played for the Challenge Soccer Club before winning a Pac-10 Championship and reaching the College Cup Finals as a UCLA Bruin.
Some new Longhorns got the start against Sam Houston State this past Friday night (Oct. 13), as the Horns utilized the depth from the bench to tally seven goals the Bearkats at home. Six of the starting 11 players come off the bench for UT and sub in during the run of play. Freshman Emily Anderson and senior Leslie Imber, who typically spark the offense when not starting, began the game up top alongside senior forward Amy Burlingham. Anderson continues to prove particularly dangerous in and around the box as she recorded numerous shots from outside the 18 as well threatened from within the penalty area. She also penetrated the endline, nearly linking up with Imber for another goal (as the pair did against Oklahoma). Sophomores Stephanie Logterman and Jill Gilbeau came out of the backline and into the wing midfield on a few plays during the match. The Bearkats were no match for their speed on the flanks as both Logterman and Gilbeau consistently beat their defenders and sent balls into the box. Both players demonstrated their offensive abilities as Logterman took off, beating at least 2 or 3 players at the top of the 18 before slipping a shot past the keeper. Gilbeau also pushed into the box, scoring off a cross from the left side.
The team looked more confidant overall in one-on-one situations. Senior midfielder Priscilla Fite also took on numerous defenders, weaving through the SHSU defense and into the box before netting another score. As the second half against Sam Houston State wore on, the Longhorns became more efficient in their scoring percentage. The offensive barrage only helped the team's confidence as they traveled to Lincoln on Sunday to face a much more challenging opponent in Nebraska. This was extremely important in preparing the offense for the Nebraska match-up as the team experienced fewer opportunities on goal. However, UT capitalized on these chances and relied on the tough defense to stop the Big 12's leading goal scorer, Nebraska's Brittany Timko.
The contest against Sam Houston State demonstrated the team's depth with little or no apparent gap between the abilities of the starters and substitutes. This provides Coach Petrucelli with numerous tools and options in approaching a particular game plan. While sophomore Kasey Moore anchored the backline with defenders, senior Karen Haight and freshman Casey Mogk, on Friday, Petrucelli reverted to the traditional four-back lineup against Nebraska. The line limited Timko to merely one shot in the match and only three shots on goal through 90 minutes. The possession game continued to improve over the weekend as the team moved the ball across the field with a sharp ground game. Even though the Longhorns had more time against Sam Houston State, they played the ball around taking one- and two-touches, swinging it from one side to the other as well as pushing through the midfield. As opponent pressure increased around the ball, the back line maintained composure, limiting the amount of giveaways and adequately clearing balls away from goal. Although it was much harder to maintain possession against Nebraska due to their physical play and high pressure, the Longhorns fought the intensity by winning 50/50 balls and challenges in the midfield. While the three-back formation against Sam Houston State presented slight issues with a counter attack, as Logterman and Gilbeau had to backtrack, the Longhorns defense successfully anticipated balls forward. If a pass snuck through the line, the defense used its speed to cut off the opposing forward and send the ball back to the keeper to clear. The defense looks more focused and aware in recent match-ups. They continue to contribute on the other side of the ball, as Moore consistently puts her head on corners, and the runs forward from Logterman and Gilbeau increased the numbers up field and in turn, the opportunities to score.
THE COMING WEEK
Texas broke its season record for wins on the road, recording its seventh 2006 away victory, against Nebraska on Sunday. The team's ability to convert their chances, the growing sophistication of the Texas defense, and the abilities of substitutes to contribute, distinguish this year's team from more recent squads that struggled on the road and in the post season. Continuing to solidify these attributes will prepare Texas for a run at the conference championship, the Big-12 Tournament Title, and for a deep drive into the NCAA postseason. UT faces Missouri and Iowa State this upcoming weekend at home before finishing conference play in the Lone Star Showdown - Texas A&M at home on Oct. 27. The team will have to take care of business this week in order to put itself in the position to challenge Texas A&M and Oklahoma State for the regular season title. The team will continue to focus on its possession and creating an abundance of opportunities on goal. The final games of the regular season, against unranked opponents are important, not just in competing for the conference title, but also in determining admittance to the NCAA tournament and earning home field advantage throughout the tourney.
STAMPS OF APPROVAL
STAMP'S PLAY OF THE WEEK: Caitlin Kennedy reconnected with fellow junior forward Kelsey Carpenter on the game-winner against Nebraska. Kennedy sent a through ball into Carpenter who beat her defender and converted the score, catapulting Texas over the Huskers 2-1.
STAMP'S PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Junior forward Caitlin Kennedy tallied her first and second goals of the year against Sam Houston State and then Nebraska, while adding an assist on Junior Kelsey Carpenter's game-winner over the Huskers. The pre-season All Big-12 selection returned from an injury keeping her out half the season but returned to immediately make an impact.