Forward Mikayla Flores, left, and goalie Nicole Curry lead Texas onto the field on Aug. 18, 2017. Texas defeated Rice 2-1. RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Soccer

Texas Sports Notebook: Newcomers pace soccer team to an undefeated start

Posted August 31st, 2017

While Texas’ football players host Maryland on Saturday, you’ll find many of their fellow UT student-athletes on the West Coast.

Texas volleyball and Texas soccer both are in California this weekend. The volleyball team is set to play three matches at a tournament hosted by the University of San Diego. Meanwhile, the soccer squad has scheduled games at Cal and Sacramento State.

The soccer team will pack an unblemished record for its road trip. After missing the Big 12 tournament last season, Texas is 4-0 for the first time since 2008.

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“No one really wants to come in last. That’s not the way we here at Texas like to do things,” sophomore goalkeeper Nicole Curry said. “We want to come in with an attitude of we’re here to win.”

This fall, Texas was expected to improve on the 8-9-1 record it posted in 2016. Twenty-four of last year’s 28 goals were scored by players who are back on the roster. Forward Mikayla Flores, who was the team’s second-leading scorer in 2015, also has returned to the starting lineup after being sidelined by a knee injury.

Texas freshman Haley Berg (#2) celebrates teammate Cyera Hintzen’s goal against Rice on Aug. 18, 2017. RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Additionally, the Longhorns have been boosted by their newcomers.

Four of UT’s seven goals have been scored by new additions. Haley Berg and Emily Strouphauer, who are two of the team’s nine freshmen, are responsible for three of those goals. Boston College transfer Amber Stearns scored against Western Kentucky. Curry, who did not play last year, has recorded two shutouts.

“(Texas coach Angela Kelly) recruited a really good class,” junior midfielder Katie Glenn said. “I think everyone just came prepared to play and to compete against each other. I think they’ve done really well.”

Cal, ranked 25th in the United Soccer Coaches’ poll, will provide Texas with its toughest test to date. After this weekend, UT will have only three matches remaining before its conference opener against Iowa State on Sept. 22.

“There’s always room for improvement and to get better, but starting off this year 4-0 has really motivated us and given us confidence,” Glenn said. “I think we’ll be ready once conference comes.”

Texas defensive specialist Claire Hahn serves the ball against Baylor Bears on Nov. 9, 2016 at the Gregory Gym. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Backup plans: Texas volleyball coach Jerritt Elliott heads to San Diego knowing he has options aplenty on his bench. Take last weekend’s match against Oregon, for example. In the 3-1 win, he consistently swapped sophomore defensive specialist Claire Hahn for All-American Micaya White when White rotated to the service line.

White is regularly a six-rotation player, but Elliott thought she struggled with her passing against Oregon. She also had three service errors over UT’s first two matches. While on the floor for White, Hahn contributed an ace and seven digs. The Westlake product served for six straight points during one key run in the second set.

“That relieved some pressure from our team,” Elliott said. “If our team can understand those concepts, that the strength of our team is in the numbers of quality players that when people are not playing their perfect match, they can come in and do better.”

After splitting its opening matches against Florida and Oregon, Texas is No. 4 in this week’s AVCA poll.

Ready, set, go: Texas opens its cross country season on Friday at the Aggie Opener in College Station. The Longhorns will leave many of their upperclassmen and top-rated runners at home. That will give young runners like sophomores Garek Bielaczyc and Destiny Collins a chance to make a statement.

“I think a lot of these kids racing this weekend, you might see later on in the season,” UT coach Brad Herbster said. “This is a great opportunity for these younger kids to establish themselves for the entire season.”

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