KANSAS CITY – Texas Tech's exciting end-of-season run through the latter half of Big 12 play and the Big 12 Championship was halted Friday in Kansas City thanks to a Baylor Bear golden goal three minutes into overtime. Tech split the game's 36 shots right down the middle with Baylor, 18-18, in an exciting shootout between the fifth-seed Red Raiders and one-seed Bears.
As many expected, the first half of the semi-final face-off was a physical one with a lot of back-and-forth action. Baylor and Tech took turns exchanging scoring opportunities, and right when it appeared the two would enter the half scoreless, Baylor's Julie James climbed the ladder to head in a cross with under a minute left of the first 45.
"Although the goal at the end of the half was disheartening, it didn't change our mission at all," said head coach Tom Stone.
The Red Raiders emerged from the locker room aggressive and determined to find the equalizer. After controlling possession and putting together multiple threatening attacks in the first ten minutes if the second half, Tech found that equalizer in the 56th minute.
The score came off the foot of Kirsten Davis for her sixth of the season when a shot by Jade King bounced off the foot of a blocking Baylor defender. The ball careened into the center of the box, where a waiting Davis stepped to the ball and finished it with her left foot.
"They have such good athletes defensively that you have to be relentless," Stone said. "All the dominoes were falling for us, and that was a good example. We had a great buildup to get us there, and then we just wouldn't let them out. The ball just stayed in, and when it popped out to Kirsten Davis, she did a nice job amongst the chaos to pick her spot and slot it in there."
The game-tying goal, which felt like a long time coming, brought even more energy to the Red Raider attack. Tech continued to create dangerous chances and put the Bears on their heels. One big chance came from Jordan Duke, who found herself alone at the top of the box just minutes after Davis' score and drilled a shot from outside the 18 that forced the Bears keeper to make a leaping save to tip it over the goal. Duke tallied three shots while Davis and King registered four apiece as Tech totaled 12 shots in the second half of action. Ally Griffin led the team with five shots of her own off the bench.
The Bears defense, however, found a way to keep it out of the back of the net and force overtime. Tech entered OT for the second weekend in a row. Determined to continue the recent trend of winning any way possible – late in regulation, in overtime, or in penalties – the team was ready for extra soccer.
"We really felt like we were going to win," Stone said. "We felt like we were the better team the entire night."
Just three minutes in, however, Baylor's Jackie Crowther launched one from 25 yards that beat Tech keeper Marissa Zucchetto top-corner to send the Bears to Sunday's Big 12 Championship final.
"It's soccer," said Stone. "The kid hit a dream ball into the top corner, and there's nothing we can really do about it save for the turnover in the middle of the field, which was costly."
Though a tough loss to stomach for the Red Raiders, they can take solace in the fact that their play throughout recent weeks has earned them at least another game. The NCAA Tournament Selection Show will be held Monday at 3:30 p.m., where Tech is predicted to have its name called and may even be awarded a home match in the first round.
"It's just a question now of whether we get to play in Lubbock or go somewhere else," Stone said. "We're not done. We're devastated tonight, but there's a lot more soccer left in us."