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No. 22-ranked Bears enter Big 12 tourney as 4th seed

Nov. 3, 1999

By TRAVIS THOLEN

Sports Writer

Baylor soccer has failed to defend the regular season Big 12 Conference crown from last year, but the post-season title is up for the taking. The No. 22 ranked women's soccer team begins a three-day conference affair as the fourth seed with a 13-5-1 overall record and 6-3-1 in the Big 12.

After defeating Texas Tech University Saturday, the Bears are on a five-game winning streak entering the opening round of the Big 12 tournament. For the first time in four years, the tournament will feature eight teams instead of six. In 1998, the Bears lost in the second round 3-2 with the Missouri Tigers doing the trick.

But first off for the Bears in 1999 is the University of Texas, the fifth seed with an 8-8-2 overall record and 4-4-2 in the Big 12. Kickoff is at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Blossom Athletic Complex in San Antonio.

The Bears dropped the regular season game against the Longhorns 2-4 at home just three weeks ago. In that game, the Bears out shot their opposition 20-6, yet could not find the net. Baylor has turned their performance around since then with four wins and a tie.

'What do you say? They walk onto your home field and beat you after we knocked off a team like A&M,' said senior forward Nikki Hales about the rematch. 'That should never happen, which is enough motivation for the first round. It is a game that we owe to ourselves.'

After beating the Bears 4-2 on Oct. 10, the Longhorns tied Missouri and Kansas and beat Texas Christian University and the University of Colorado. The Longhorns' leading scorer, Abby Gutowski, has six goals and two assists, including two goals and an assist in the Baylor game.

'We have something to prove against Texas,' senior forward Courtney Saunders said. 'We are having fun like old times; hopefully that confidence will continue into the post season.'

Saunders ripped the Red Raiders for four goals on Saturday with the best showing of the green and gold offense since the 6-1 season home opener against San Diego University. The performance earned her the Big 12 Player of the Week honors. Saunders is currently third in the conference in scoring with 42 points and is one goal shy of tying her seasonal career high with 18.

'This is exactly what we wanted,' head Coach Nick Cowell said. 'This is the one game that we are looking forward to.'

Cowell mentioned his team is improving at the right time, as many teams in the tournament fear the potential of the team. Junior midfielder Gina Castellano said the team is focused and in a laid-back mood for the first time all season. According to Castellano, the team camaraderie is the reason for the turnaround since the Texas game.

The Bears have out shot their opponents in all but two games this season with a season edge of 369 to 224. Actual shots-on-goal heavily favor the Bears 202 to 124 against the opposition. The team has 44 goals while allowing just 23.