As is customary, Americans tend to ward off soccer as some relic of the old-world. “Communist sport,” I’ve heard it called. “I don’t get it,” “it makes no sense,” “what’s offsides?” echoed time and time again from young to old with -here’s the real punch- zero desire to effect change. Despite, or in spite, these truths it’s coaches like Tom Stone and teams like these Red Raider women who fight the good fight and prove why soccer matters in a city as much a physical desert as it can be a cultural one.
Not too long ago I wrote a short piece on the basic DNA of this elite soccer team, and why it has deservedly requested our full attention. Now more than ever those points ring true. Football, a major focus by most during this season, has drug fans through the mud and forced many to abandon joy. Soccer, meanwhile, has had their their strongest conference performance since 2014 and likewise enter the Big 12 Tournament as a No. 2 seed for the second time in program history.
On Halloween the team locked down Kansas State with absolute tenacity on the offensive side of things. Leading the charge for the Red Raiders was Kirsten Davis. Davis put the ball in the back of the net twice in the first half (3’, 15’) and firmly placed herself as the Big 12’s leading regular season scorer with 15 goals on the season. Beset on either side of her goals were strong finishes by Charlotte Teeter and Penelope Mulenga. Teeter, who had that incredible goal in the Texas match, connected with an assist by Demi Koulizakis to take the Red Raiders up 2-0 and have her second goal in two games. Mulenga saw her first goal of the season come from a heap of effort and finesse; fighting for possession and then putting her shot in the top 90.
The Red Raiders led 4-0 at halftime, and after one Wildcat goal they finished the contest with a 4-1 victory. The performance earned a sweep of the Big 12 weekly awards with Madison White representing defense, Charlotte Teeter representing offense, and Macy Schultz representing freshmen. Texas Tech’s regular season concluded with a strong 14-2-2 (6-1-2 conference) record to place second in the Big 12 behind Oklahoma State. They’re placing earned them a No. 2 seed in the conference tournament and a match tonight at 5:45 against Baylor in Kansas City.
Texas Tech faced off against Baylor not but a little over a week ago in Waco and came out with a clean 2-0 victory. After being locked at 0-0 at the half, Kirsten Davis came out strong in the second to secure two goals and the three points for Tech. Looking presently at the post season time of the year, Stone has a lot of confidence in his team. “We’re built for the long haul. We’re a deep team, and the tournament rewards deep teams,” he commented, “as you can see, we’ve played a lot of players.” Stone alluded to the 12 different Red Raiders who have tallied goals across 18 games this season. Nine of which came from five freshmen.
Last season Baylor stopped Texas Tech’s run in the tournament with a heartbreaking 2-1 overtime victory in the semifinals. The strengthened and battle-hardened Red Raiders this season will be looking at tonight as the moment to return the favor. You can watch the match up tonight on ESPN+ and of course follow the proceedings on Twitter by following their account @TexasTechSoccer