Needing a win to earn the conference championship, the Oklahoma State soccer team came out firing early and often Thursday night at Neal Patterson Stadium.
The plan worked.
OSU blanked Baylor, 3-0, to win its second Big 12 regular season title in three years. This one came in front of the home fans, though.
“This feels great,” OSU coach Colin Carmichael said. “We were fully focused on our game. We assumed (Texas) Tech would get the win, so that wasn’t a consideration for us. We were just fully focused on Baylor, and they showed for the final 20 minutes of the first half why we had to be focused on them. They’re a good team. I just feel great. I’m so happy for this group of kids. Obviously, selfishly, it feels good for the staff, but I’m just so happy for these kids after the way last year ended.”
The Cowgirls (14-1-3, 7-1-1 Big 12) didn’t wait long to score Thursday night. The first goal came during the first seven minutes of action.
Charmé Morgan sent a cross to Julia Lenhardt, who fired a shot that deflected off the Baylor goalkeeper’s hands before bouncing off the crossbar and back into the field of play. Gabriella Coleman was there for the clean up.
Coleman battled her defender for the ball, and she won. Coleman drilled the ball into the back of the net before posing and flexing as her teammates rushed to her in celebration of the goal.
“I didn’t think it would happen, but I’m happy it happened,” Carmichael said of the quick start. “We’ve been pretty good in the first half all year.”
Less than three minutes later, Lenhardt delivered a shot she won’t forget. From about 35 yards out and time to settle herself, the senior from Frisco, Texas, fired a shot that sailed into the net for the second goal of the game.
It gave the Cowgirls a 2-0 lead less than 10 minutes into the contest.
“That was a world-class goal,” Carmichael said. “If that’s not on ESPN or NCAA goal of the week, something’s wrong, because that was stunning. It was a stunning goal.”
The score remained 2-0 throughout the remainder of the first half, despite close calls by both teams. OSU defender Elise Hawn saved a goal late in the first half.
Hawn cleared a ball from the backline inches that was inches from cutting the lead in half. It was Baylor’s best chance to score in the half.
OSU scored the nail in the coffin in the 74th minute. A corner kick from Jaci Jones resulted in a scrum in front of the Baylor (8-7-3, 4-5) goal as players battled for the ball.
Camy Huddleston won the scrum as she poked the ball through the Bears’ defense and across the goal line. It gave OSU a 3-0 lead with less than 16 minutes remaining in the contest.
“The third goal was crucial – it kind of iced it,” Carmichael said. “I thought we had some opportunities to get the goal earlier, to be quite honest. … It was kind of a relief to get the third one.”
OSU goalkeeper Dani Greenlee had eight saves in the contest. She helped the Cowgirls earn their ninth shut out of the season – third in conference action.
“We had to work really hard to keep the shut out,” Carmichael said. “Late in the first half, Baylor was taking it to us trying to get back in the game. We hung on a little bit. In the second half, I thought we controlled the play pretty much from the outset until the last 10 minutes.”
OSU will next play in the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City, Missouri, beginning with the first round Sunday.