Baylor's recent run of success on the soccer field has caused coach Jimmy Weekley and assistants Curtis Blair and Lara Sibold to raise the standards of the Lady Red Raider program. Therefore, while the second half of their match against Pope John Paul II might have met those standards, the first half fell quite below them.
The Lady Red Raiders got four goals in the final 40 minutes, going on to ultimately defeat the Lady Knights 6-0 to improve to 10-1 on the season. More importantly, the team, who is top-ranked in Division II-AA and ranked second in one national poll and 12th the ESPN Rise poll, improved to 3-0 in the Division II-AA East/Middle region, meaning that with wins in their final four region games, Baylor can claim the top seed going into the state playoffs -- another team goal.
In the first 40 minutes, Baylor fired eight shots on goal, but lacked a sharpness that could have been caused by an eight-day lull in between matches. They finished with two goals, the first coming off a Kelly Pannell penalty kick after the Lady Knights' Evelyn Southard was called for a handball in the box.
Grace Stewart had the team's other goal, footing in a Marci Carter corner kick.
"I just didn't think we were too dangerous in the first half," Weekley said.
The Lady Red Raiders' play improved in the second half, and after a McKenzie Thomas goal eight minutes in, Weekley started the wholesale substitutions. In the final 25 minutes, Mary Ellen Williams, Chloe Brackett and Maggie Crumbliss added goals.
"We just became more dangerous in our attack in the second half," Weekley said. "The girls put themselves in spots where they could finish."
The Lady Knights (7-4-3, 0-3-2), who advanced to the state final four a year ago, were without three players, including University of Kentucky commit Cailin Harris, who was out with a concussion.
"I thought we did a nice job out there," Pope John Paul coach Mike McLaren said. "There was just such a difference in speed and experience."