Thirteen games without a loss, and yet the urgency to get back on a winning track has never been greater for the 2017 Longhorns. Texas is striving to break a two-game tie streak after beginning the season with 11 consecutive wins and will need to get back on track quick to grab the No. 1 seed in the Big 12 Tournament.
The scoreless contest Texas endured against Oklahoma became a greater concern against TCU when forward Cyera Hintzen was pulled out of the game by head coach Angela Kelly. The sophomore was pulled by Kelly to mitigate the damage of a “tweak” in her leg.
Hintzen’s impact this year speaks for itself. She’s netted seven goals in 13 games, solidifying her spot as one of the top young players in the nation.
Retaining a healthy squad heading into the Big 12 championships is now a clear priority for Kelly, but it leaves uncertainty for a lineup that now requires some rotation.
“I think everybody needs to take a deep breath and just be a little introspective,” Kelly said. “(We) just need to understand what it takes at the highest level. But if you think about what this team is doing and the amount of teams that are coming after them, we are going to use it as a learning environment.”
Kelly and her players realize Hintzen’s nearly irreplaceable value to the team. In addition to her own scoring prowess, she’s brought added acceleration to the development of the rest of the younger Longhorns, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.
Freshman forward Haley Berg has been able to thrive alongside Hintzen on the Longhorn attacking front — scoring four goals of her own. But time will tell if Hintzen’s injury will slow Berg’s progress and deny Texas the opportunity to play at its highest level.
Despite Hintzen’s possible absence, this weekend’s slate of road games against Kansas and Kansas State gives Texas a chance to restore their winning confidence and adjust after a week of rest.
“We worked so hard to get here,” sophomore goalkeeper Nicole Curry said. “So I don’t think any of us are going to let it slip away.”
Kelly has praised the talented youth of this year’s team on several occasions and noted it as a major contributing factor to the Longhorns’ success in 2017. But even with their inexperience, this year’s group has proved mature in their approach to each game, staying level headed even when facing strenuous circumstances. They’ll need to continue with that approach over the weekend.
“We have the opportunity to get that Big 12 Championship,” junior midfielder Kayra Dollas said. “So I think just thinking about that going into games and being ready to work hard, we’ll be fine.”