West Virginia Disappoints Texas Seniors

by Jessica Stamp
October 27, 2012

Tears streamed down senior forward Hannah Higgins’ face after leaving Mike A. Meyers field at the University of Texas for the last time Friday night. The red-face redhead left everything on the field against the Big 12 champions West Virginia (11-3-4, 7-0-1), making run after run with and without the ball to put her Longhorns in a good position to come out victorious in her last home game.

“This whole year we’ve wanted to work hard for our seniors, and Hannah has really emphasized how much it means to her and how much soccer means to her,” freshman midfielder Lindsey Meyer said. “Hannah on the field is just a leader in every way. I trust her. She’ll give constructive criticism to help, but she’s also very positive.”

Despite near misses and close connections, the Longhorns’ lone mistake cost their seniors a final victory before fans, friends, and family in Austin when a miscleared ball in the waning minutes of the first overtime period squeezed through a mob and fell on the goal line at the foot of a waiting West Virginia Mountaineer who simply tapped it home.

“[It was a] wonderful 90 minutes tonight. We just need to show up the last three. And really have the ability to put a team away,” Texas head coach Angela Kelly said.

Junior midfielder Kara Blosser‘s goal in the 98th minute of play kept West Virginia undefeated in conference action. The former Big East powerhouse now goes into their first Big 12 tournament in history as the number one seed. Despite their dominating showcase in the 2012 standings, the Mountaineers struggled against the Horns on the road, putting up just three shots on goal and rarely challenging freshman goalkeeper Abby Smith for Texas in the box.

The Longhorns’ high pressure across the field and tight defending in the back meant the Mountaineers strained to locate their talented frontrunners sophomore Kate Schwindel and junior Frances Silva. When they did, sparks flew for West Virginia’s offense as channels opened when the two stars took on individually. However, both Schwindel and Silva’s shots were off the mark, sailing well high when in the clear.

It was Texas who had the most dangerous chances – two of which Higgins, a pre-season All Big 12 selection, constructed. The first came from a flick in the first half when Higgins simply used her speed to blow by the West Virginia centerbacks in an attempt to get a touch past netminder sophomore Sara Keane.  Senior defender Mallory Smith put just enough hip into Higgins to allow Keane to grab the ball first.

After numerous opportunities on corner kicks and set pieces came and went with mediocre service, Higgins took another flick from roommate Kristin Cummins in the second half and penetrated up the right sideline. Higgins went to the six and goal line, squared the ball back to the feet of an onrushing Chantale Campbell with a clear chance to simply pass the ball into the net with under four minutes remaining in regulation. Unfortunately, the pass was inches behind Campbell’s feet and Keane was able to squash the adjustment.

“I was pleased with our possession. I was pleased with our spacing, understanding when to hold your run, where to run, our possession like I mentioned, and now we just got to put it away,” Kelly said.

The Texas coach subbed few players over the course of the long game and perhaps the defensive focus felt the fatigue as an unmarked West Virginia player was able to send a corner back across the face of the goal where it smacked into a few different players before making its way back post and into the net.

“The squad’s very young, and we certainly have challenged them,” Kelly said. “We faced adversity. This team’s had to be very resilient. You only bounce back with leadership. I just want to see us put the game away. That’s the final stage of maturing. “

Despite the disappointment of these seniors in their last home again, the Longhorns (7-10-1, 4-4) will get another opportunity to win when they face Oklahoma in the quarterfinals of the Big-12 tournament Wednesday.

“The rules are the same from tonight on.  It’s win and advance whether you’re 18-0 or 2-16,” Kelly said. “That’s the beauty of cup time and championship time.”

If Texas wins, they may have the chance to take revenge on West Virginia in the semi-finals. The number one seed will take on TCU first. Texas will most likely have to defeat both and take home the Big-12 tournament title to ensure a place in the NCAA tournament – no doubt a much more redemptive award to validate this senior class.

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