Once every four years, Americans join the rest of the world in supporting the other kind of football. Team USA had a fun run this World Cup, but now that it's over, hopefully we can transfer our newfound (or renewed) enthusiasm for the game to Texas Tech soccer, which is back in business for the 2014 season. Our No. 17 Red Raiders beat No. 25 Denver in an exhibition match Saturday by a score of 2-1. It was a competitive game with both teams coming off of 18-win seasons and NCAA tournament play. With the win, Tech confirmed that they are indeed ready to compete as a top-tier soccer club.
Denver scored early, but as Tech settled in, they took control. Despite the slow start, Tech showed some of the strengths that made this team so successful last year. In 2013 Tech was one of the best teams in the nation at limiting shots on goal, while consistently attacking offensively. We continued this trend with 14 shots on goal, versus only 3 all night from Denver. Coach Stone indicated he was pleased with much of what he saw from the team but that Saturday's match also exposed some areas needing improvement.
Last year's team was the most successful in program history, finishing second in the Big 12 and advancing to the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament. We return 7 starters from that team, including two pre-season All-Big 12 selections in forward Janine Beckie and defender Jaelene Hinkle. Both Beckie and Hinkle were also named as candidates for the MAC Hermann Trophy, which goes to the top collegiate player nationally. In addition, each had unique opportunities to improve their skills while competing on an international stage. Beckie played for the U-20 Canadian team (both her parents are Canadian) in the recent World Cup, where she was the leading goal-scorer for her team. Hinkle also had the chance to play with the US U-23 team in Spain over the summer. I look forward to seeing how their international experiences will translate into improved play this season.
One of the few question marks on the roster this season is at goalkeeper. We lost a very talented keeper, Victoria Esson, to graduation last year (and we also lost the coolest accent on the team-New Zealand). Sophomore Lauren Watson got the start in goal on Saturday over freshmen Carissa Christensen and Marissa Torres. Hopefully one of these underclassmen will grow into the Tim Howard of Tech soccer. With quality keeper play, this Texas Tech team should have a very high ceiling.
I'm excited to see what this team will accomplish in 2014; Coach Stone is definitely building a monster. The team's first home games are this Friday at 7:00 against New Mexico and Sunday at 7:00 against Oral Roberts. If you're in the Lubbock area, soccer is a good, cheap way to take the family to support the Red Raiders. If you're a football season ticket holder, you can use the VIP card that came with your tickets to get up to 4 people into soccer games for free. So put on your Tech gear, grab the face paint and the vuvuzelas, and come cheer on our very talented Red Raider futbol team!