By NewsPress Staff
KANSAS CITY, Mo. —
Oklahoma State knocked off Texas 2-1 in the opening round of the Big 12 Soccer Championship Wednesday afternoon at Swope Soccer Village.
With the win over third-seeded UT, the sixth-seeded Cowgirls improved to 8-5-6 and advance to the Big 12 tourney semifinals for the eighth time. OSU will face the Texas Tech-TCU winner in Friday’s semifinal at 8 p.m.
“All these games are tight because I think the teams are pretty evenly matched, and we’ve all seen each other so there’s not secrets,” said OSU coach Colin Carmichael, who has led the Cowgirls to two Big 12 tourney titles and seven semifinal appearances in the last eight years. “It was a tough game, but we played really well. Our front three were really good and created a lot of looks for us. I thought we deserved to win.”
Freshmen were the stars of the day for the Cowgirls as both OSU goals came from rookies — Krissi Killion and Courtney Dike — while goalkeeper Michela Ongaro racked up a career-high eight saves, all of them coming in the second half.
“We’ve worked with (Ongaro) a lot, and you know those high balls are coming against a team like Texas,” Carmichael said. “She’s very confident and assured for such a young player. I’m really proud of her. She came up big in the second half.”
OSU’s offense created chances early and often against Texas. The first of those opportunities came just over 12 minutes into the match when Madison Mercado sent a pass ahead to Killion, who got behind the UT defense, took the ball in stride and created a one-on-one opportunity with Longhorn goalkeeper Abby Smith. But Killion’s shot from just outside the 6-yard box was right at Smith, and she made the save.
On their next opportunity, however, Mercado and Killion would convert. This time Killion took Mercado’s pass and drilled a shot from the corner of the 18-yard box that glanced off the near post and past Smith to give OSU a 1-0 advantage in the 20th minute.
The lead did not last long. With 22:15 remaining in the first half, UT netted the equalizer when Chantale Campell headed a cross from Jasmine Hart to the upper 90 of the far post to tie the score at 1-1.
The teams went into intermission still tied, but OSU would regain the lead less than nine minutes into the second half.
After taking a pass from Mercado just outside the 18-yard box, Dike beat a UT defender and a charging Smith. With only a single UT defender on the line, the Cowgirls’ leading scorer delivered a shot into the back of the net. Dike’s 12th goal of the season gave OSU a 2-1 advantage with 36:06 remaining.
From there, the Cowgirls would hang on thanks to a stingy defense led by its keeper.
Texas (12-6-2) racked up 15 shots in the final half, but the Longhorns couldn’t manage to record the equalizer against Ongaro and the Cowgirls.
“I got yelled at in practice this week for not holding onto the ball on crosses, and coming into the game, that was my focus,” Ongaro said. “I’ve been asking for feedback, and they gave me some and I wanted to get that done because I knew it would be big.
“I’ve been a little up and down lately trying to get my footing at this level. Having a big game like that against a team like Texas is really big for my confidence. And the team needed it.”
The Longhorns finished with a 19-13 edge in shots. Five of those shots came in the final 50 seconds, and four of those came during an 11-second span in the OSU box.
During that frantic scramble, each of the Longhorns’ four shots was blocked by and OSU defender.
“The hardest thing as a goalie is when there are so many people in the box, and you know if the ball goes in the net it’s gonna come off someone’s heel or head and it’s nearly impossible to save those balls,” Ongaro said. “My defenders came up huge, and we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them.”