If I told you a team lost three of their top four players, you’d assume the team would be struggling and probably at the middle of the conference. But has not been the case for the Red Raiders Soccer team. After tonight, yet another Texas Tech program could be crowned Big 12 championships.
Now this isn’t a guarantee to happen. The Red Raiders aren’t even the favorite to win the conference. Not only does Texas Tech (5-1-2) have to defeat Kansas State (1-7) at home tonight (on FSSW), but Baylor (4-4) also has to win at Oklahoma State (6-1-1) for an outright title, or tie for a “split title” even though Texas Tech defeated Oklahoma State.
So how is Texas Tech in this position to walk away with a Big 12 championship?
1.) The Play Of Madison White
The game prior to Big 12 play, starting goaltender Marissa Zucchetto was injured her face, which inserted Madison White in the game. And since then, she’s been playing stellar ever since. I’m not sure if Zucchetto is ready to go or not, but it’s difficult to replace what White has done.
The freshman is leading the Big 12 in save percentage (.882), goals against average (0.46), and shutouts (4) during conference play. They aren’t the easiest saves either. There have been some pretty difficult ones that she’s had to make to keep the opposition off the board.
White has earned five Big 12 weekly honors, which the tied for the most all time in the conference in a single season. Davis has been impressive this year, but arguably White has been the most important player this season.
𝙎𝙬𝙚𝙚𝙥 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙬𝙚𝙚𝙠𝙚𝙣𝙙, 𝙨𝙬𝙚𝙚𝙥 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙖𝙬𝙖𝙧𝙙𝙨.
Make it 5️⃣ on the year for Madi, plus the first career honors for Charlotte and Macy!
— Texas Tech Soccer (@TexasTechSoccer) October 29, 2019
2.) Crunch Time Goals
If were Red Raiders were a couple minutes late on a couple goals, we’re talking about a team finishing in the middle of the pack instead of competing for the title. Three minutes is the difference between these two scenarios.
Texas Tech has two goals in overtime, and two in the last two minutes of the game. The first came at Iowa State, with the Red Raiders nearing a tie. But Sierra Jones scored a strike just inside the penalty box in the 108th minute to give the team three points.
The other two came against Texas last Sunday. Texas Tech fell behind 1-0 and needed a goal to keep their Big 12 title pursuit alive. Charlotte Teeter put a header in the back of the net off a rebound to even the game. In overtime, Macy Schutlz beat the goal keeper to get the victory. Those goals were a three point swing.
NO QUIT IN THIS TEAM. @charlotteteeter stays strong in the box and goes off the post and in with a header to tie it in the final moments!
— Texas Tech Soccer (@TexasTechSoccer) October 27, 2019
“Are you kidding me? That finish… this is a freshman!”
— Texas Tech Soccer (@TexasTechSoccer) October 27, 2019
3.) Re-solidifying The Defense
Texas Tech lost a lot of defensive players, with Cassie Hiatt as the lone starting defender returning. However, the newcomers in the rotation have done a marvelous job, forming the best defense in the Big 12. Gabbie Puente, Margeret Begley and Amanda Porter have filled in nicely on the back line.
The biggest addition has been freshman Hannah Anderson, whom is paired with Hiatt to become the best center back duo in the Big 12. She also has been the primary penalty kicker, with three goals on four attempts this season.
During conference play, they lead the Big 12 in goals allowed with four (next lowest is seven) and shutouts with five, yet White is only eighth in saves made. That’s a sign of a good defense.
4.) Timely Substitutions
Stone has made timely substitutions throughout conference play. The biggest one I’ve notice is how he uses his forwards. Demi Koulizakis typically gets the start, and is the more physical and experienced player. She knows where to be and wears the defense out with her play.
Then, Macy Schutlz will check into the game, and uses her speed to create opportunities on a worn down defense. Stone also had swapped out one of the corner defenders in the game, to get some fresh legs in the game. Those are two notable substitutions I noticed that have helped create and prevent goals.
5.) Kirsten Davis Creating Opportunities
Kirsten Davis had a crazy amount of points heading into conference play, but doesn’t rank Top 10 in points or assists in conference play, and is eighth in goals. However, what she is doing is creating opportunities.
Opponents knew of her dangerous scoring ability going into conference, which leaves more chances for other players on the team. Davis is currently second in the Big 12 in shots per game with 5.23, which keeps the defense on their toes. Eventually if you shoot that many times, goals eventually will come to you as well.
— KTXT Sports (@KTXT_Sports) October 25, 2019
6.) Smart Decision Making
Really, the only mistake I can recall the team making was an own goal in the Texas game. The Red Raiders have made accurate passes and really their only off the mark passes are ones down the field, which are difficult to make.
They play controlled and don’t try to force anything for the most part, which brings me to my next point which is:
7.) Time Of Possession
I mean, this one applies to all sports with some sort of timer. It’s simple: you have a better chance of winning if you have the ball more. Although I don’t have the stats for time of possession (it’s difficult to track in soccer, let alone college soccer), but the Red Raiders have the ball a lot and make a lot of backward passes.
Defenses always get more tired before offenses because they have to react to their moves. Having the defense chase the ball and stay disciplined to making the defense tired and therefore creating better chances later in the game.
During Big 12 play, the Red Raiders have scored just one goal in the first half, and eight in the second half or overtime. There’s a reason behind that.
8.) Road Warriors
Unfortunately, the Red Raiders are a .500 team at home during conference play, with a 1-1-2 record. The reason why they are in this position is because Texas Tech is undefeated on the road in Big 12 play, with wins over Iowa State, West Virginia, Baylor and Texas.
In fact, this was their first win ever in Morgantown, first win in Waco since 2007, and first win at Texas since 2012. Should bode well for the Red Raiders if they have to go on the road in the postseason.
Post-practice thoughts from @kirstendavis22 as the squad makes final preparations for a big road trip. 🎥⬇️
— Texas Tech Soccer (@TexasTechSoccer) October 22, 2019