2011 Season Review: A Foundation of Success
When head coach Marci Jobson stepped onto Baylor's campus late in 2007, she had a plan. Brick by brick. Day by day. She knew that the best way to build a sturdy house was through a solid foundation, and in her fourth season at the helm of the Baylor soccer program, the house began to take shape.
Picked to tie for seventh in the Preseason Big 12 Conference poll, the Bears ended the year alone in third. With 15 wins this season, the 2011 squad tied the 1998 Big 12 Champion team for the second-most victories in a season and was the first team to win an NCAA Tournament game in program history.
"This team was special," Jobson said. "They showed up every day ready to work and fight for one another. Those are things you can't teach and end up being the intangibles that guide a team to do great things."
The Bears opened the season at home with a 3-0 win over Sam Houston State and followed up with a great 1-1 tie to pick up a result at Nebraska.
Three-consecutive wins over Cal State Northridge, UTSA and at Louisville put Baylor's record at 4-0-1 and kept the Bears undefeated in their first five games for the first time since 2009 and gave BU four wins in its opening five games for the first time since 2007.
A neutral site loss to Kentucky gave the Bears their first loss, but BU bounced back with a pair of wins to sit at 6-1-1 entering conference play.
Baylor opened Big 12 with a heartbreaking 2-1 loss at Texas A&M, making it the first goal the Bears have scored on the Aggies since Oct. 11, 2002.
But following that loss, BU went on a run. A big run. One that would come to define the historic season that was to come. Behind a great defense and clutch scoring, the Bears reeled off an eight-game unbeaten streak that saw them go 7-0-1 overall and 4-0-1 in conference. Wins over Texas, Kansas, Iowa State and Missouri and a tie to Texas Tech put Baylor at a tie atop the Big 12 standings entering the final weekend.
Baylor split a pair of games in its final weekend, falling to Oklahoma State 1-0 and knocking off the Sooners 3-1 to finish third in the Big 12. That led BU to take on Missouri in the Big 12 Tournament, where an own goal and penalty kick goal gave Missouri the tie and opportunity to win in penalty kicks to advance.
With an RPI of 14, the Bears sat patiently on the day of the NCAA Tournament selection. It had been a long time since the program had watched to see its name, and fans gathered eagerly to hear its fate. When all was said and done, there was just one word that needed to be seen and said. Baylor. There it was. A ticket to the dance and a chance to continue its season. Not only did the Bears get in, they were afforded the opportunity to host the first round against Texas State.
Before a crowd of 951, BU was completely dominant and secured a 3-0 win over Texas State to advance to the NCAA second round. It marked the first time the Bears had won an NCAA Tournament match. Next up was perennial power, North Carolina for second round action in Gainesville, Fla. A couple early goals led the Tar Heels to victory and the end to a great run for BU, but
As successful as it was on the field, Baylor found many great accomplishments off of it, including compiling a program-best GPA of 3.63.
Dana Larsen and Bethany Johnston were each named Capitol One Academic All-Americans, as Larsen earned second-team honors, while Johnston was named to the third-team. The duo became the program's first Academic All-Americans since 2002 and mark the first time more than one soccer student-athlete earned the recognition. Larsen's second-team honor is the highest in program history, as Whitney Barrett was named to the third-team in 2002 and Dawn Greathouse picked up third-team honors in 1999.
The Bears had a program best 16 student-athletes named to the Academic All-Big 12 team, including a record 13 on the first-team. The team placed four student-athletes on the CoSIDA/ESPN Academic All-District Team, including a program record three on the first team. Bethany Johnston, Dana Larsen and Courtney Seelhorst were named to the first team, while Lisa Sliwinski earned second-team honors. During Jobson's four-year tenure, the Bears have had 12 student-athletes earn Academic All-District honors. In the program's previous 12 years, it had 10 players named.
"This season isn't the end of something special, it's the beginning," Jobson said. "We just have to keep getting better every single day and continue the hard work."
A house is never finished, it is always being improved. But the foundation is strong and the framework, sturdy. Baylor soccer fans can be encouraged that what Jobson is building will stand the test of time.
Brick by brick. Day by day.