Freshman Giuliana Cunningham has only been at Baylor for a few months, but she understood the significance of Baylor’s 1-0 overtime win against powerhouse West Virginia last weekend in Morgantown.
It marked the first time the Bears had beaten the Mountaineers in seven matches. It was also the first time West Virginia had lost a Big 12 home match since joining the conference in 2012.
“I never screamed so loud,” Cunningham said. “Honestly, it was one of the best wins. It was crazy. Everyone went crazy. We were just so happy.”
With that monumental win followed by Sunday’s 2-1 win over Iowa State in Ames, the Bears are in the driver’s seat to win their first Big 12 soccer championship since 1998.
Now 11-4 overall and 4-1 in the Big 12, Baylor’s final four remaining games are at home beginning at 7 p.m. Friday against Oklahoma State.
The No. 14 Bears host Kansas State on Oct. 19, followed by Kansas on Oct. 21 and Oklahoma on Oct. 25. No. 18 West Virginia is tied with Baylor for the Big 12 lead at 4-1, and have road games against Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma before finishing the regular season against Kansas in Morgantown.
With a 3-1 Big 12 record, Kansas is a half-game behind Baylor and West Virginia with five games remaining. The Jayhawks play TCU and Texas Tech at home before hitting the road to play Texas, Baylor and West Virginia.
Coming off last year’s Big 12 tournament championship and historic run to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament, the Bears appear perfectly set up to win this year’s regular season title. But Baylor coach Paul Jobson wants his players to continue to work in the manner that made this scenario possible.
“It’s almost scary, to be honest with you,” Jobson said. “I think we’ve got to continue to maintain our perspective and not look too much at the outside factors that it looks good or doesn’t look good. It’s back to work. We have to work steady day-in and day-out to make sure we don’t lose sight of what we’re trying to do and trip over ourselves.”
The Bears know they need to be focused for a solid Oklahoma State team that’s 10-3-1 overall and 2-2-1 in the Big 12. Ranked No. 8 in the RPI, Baylor wants to not only win the Big 12 but maintain position to host games in the NCAA tournament.
The Bears have won all six home games this season, including a 1-0 win over TCU on Sept. 28 that started the current four-game winning streak. Baylor’s last three wins have been on the road, beginning with a 2-0 win over Texas Tech in Lubbock on Sept. 30.
“At the beginning of conference play we thought if we could get through all these road games, we’re going to be doing pretty well at the end of the season being at home the last few,” Jobson said. “We’re in that position, and now it’s maintaining our focus and realizing we still have business to take care of, but we can do it at home.”
Jobson likes how versatile his team has become and that it doesn’t have to rely on one player to score most of the goals. In the last four wins, Camryn Wendlandt, Jackie Crowther and Taylor Moon have scored game-winning goals for the Bears.
“We’re not having to rely on one person for output,” Jobson said. “We’re able to rely on the team as a whole. We may not have a superstar, so to speak, but we’re able to rely on a lot of different people when they need to.”
Sophomore goalkeeper Jennifer Wandt has played superbly as she’s amassed 22 saves while allowing just one goal in the last four games. She collected nine saves in the epic win over West Virginia.
“She’s been fantastic all year,” Jobson said. “More times than not, goalkeepers don’t have to do a lot because defensively we’ve done really, really well. Those moments where she has had to step up, she’s stepped up big. She’s ready for the test and she’s been big for us, really big.”