Each Tuesday throughout the season, former UCLA as well as U.S. Under-16 National Team midfielder Jessica Stamp, who is a Houston, Texas, native and the current color analyst on Texas Soccer Web Broadcasts, will give you her perspective on the team's performance over the last week.
Texas played with a lot of determination this past weekend and their hunger offensively proved to be the difference against two tough opponents. Most notably was Texas' ability to bring this intensity on the road against Iowa State to pick up the team's first road win of the year. Throughout the season, the team has continued to increase their offensive presence as players have become more active and dynamic off the ball. The diversity of runs up front made more options available for the backfield. Texas then made these opportunities more advantageous by putting quality chances together and shots on the face of the goal.
Carpenter's new role out wide on the front line also constantly threatened the opposition throughout the past weekend. She used her speed to beat her defender and sent in well-placed crosses consistently. Earlier in the year, Texas had Carpenter posting in the middle and tried sending her in long or threading through balls. If Carpenter can combine her present tactics with moving in and out of the middle and picking out the time to do so, she will be even more dangerous and unpredictable. The concern is that teams are watching tapes of recent performances. Obviously, Nebrasksa did their homework and tried to solve Gilbeau's penetration out of the back. Other teams know of Carpenter and her speed, but it is now apparent that Texas can use her in a number of ways.
While Texas started putting passes together and connecting more frequently, the defense consistently disrupted the opponents' rhythm so that time of possession battle favored the Longhorns. Texas defended back to front with high pressure and early tackles. The team provided better support defensively as players quickly helped others around the ball by double-teaming when nearby. The backline found a way to hold Nebraska's talented offense from getting endline, allowing only one corner in the match. The team also held formation against the Huskers and didn't allow Brittany Timko to sit on the line and receive the ball. The line stayed composed and organized, pushing forward in order to put Nebraska offsides a total of four times. Additionally, Stephanie Logterman had to step it up and lead the defense by example while covering some holes when Kasey Moore left the game with an injury. Logterman shut down the dribble, anticipated passes and crosses, and read the field in front of her consistently. The coaches also decided to pull one of their most dangerous offensive players, Caitlin Kennedy, into the back for Moore and she assimilated well. Still, this meant other players had to create more chances up front and they did. In the end, the team mentality and relentless effort pulled out the victory for UT.
THE COMING WEEK
The parity in the Big 12 is unparalleled within Division I. Texas has now moved into a tie for first place with Colorado as both teams own 15 points in conference action. At one point earlier this season, I compared UT's shot percentage to other Big 12 programs and Texas was last. Over the past two weeks, this has turned around. The standings reflect one of the closest contests yet for the regular season title. It all depends on the final week of play. However, three teams are only a game behind. Texas faces Kansas this coming weekend, one of those teams. The game is a must win for both squads if they want a share of the title. In fact, all games are must wins for these five teams. Compounding this pressure is how Colorado has continued to improve as the season has progressed. The Buffalos pulled out a victory over Texas in Austin two weeks ago and went on to upset Kansas last weekend. There is hope for Texas though to take sole control of the race as Colorado has to face the Aggies next. The Buffalos then end league play with games against Baylor (1-6) and Texas Tech (0-6). In addition, many clubs still have three games to play in league competition. Texas will have to pull out huge wins over Kansas and Missouri this weekend on the road to give themselves a chance in the race. The wins should also help secure a number one or two seed in the Big 12 Tournament for the Horns. In total, the ultimate objective of gaining a birth in the NCAA Tournament appears well within reach.
STAMPS OF APPROVAL
STAMP'S PLAY OF THE WEEK: Freshman goalkeeper Dianna Pfenninger backpedaled and leapt in order to punch a Nebraska shot over the crossbar during the first overtime period, giving Texas more time to pull out the victory.
STAMP'S PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Sophomore forward Kelsey Carpenter tallied a team-high three points on the weekend with a goal and an assist, while also leading the team in shots with a total of eight. She attacked the flank space and pummeled the box with crosses, while scoring her fifth goal of the year off this pressure the overtime golden goal against Nebraska.