With a chance to end McCallie's perfect season and 19-game unbeaten streak, the Baylor soccer team put its best feet forward Friday night.
The Red Raiders' nearly flawless effort led to a 2-0 win over their Division II-AA East/Middle archrival. It is Baylor's first win in the rivalry since the May 2008 district championship game, though the teams have tied several times since then.
Baylor (13-2-2, 4-0-1) scored a goal in each half, but coach Curtis Blair pointed to his defense as a deciding factor.
"Defensively, I think we played outstanding," Blair said. "We knew they had some great players up top, and our backs did a great job keeping everything in front of them. It felt like they never let anything get behind them and really be dangerous."
Baylor crowded McCallie (10-1-1, 3-1-1) throughout to cut off passing lanes and limit possession, which is a hallmark of the Blue Tornado's attack. Without much time and space, McCallie struggled to create opportunities for its potent forwards.
"We never found our rhythm on the ball," McCallie coach Chris Cushenbery said. "We had trouble possessing and started playing long. I think we could have played our (midfielders) more and gotten them more touches."
Before Baylor had much time to build an attack of its own, Matheus Maia took matters into his own hands with 32:26 to go in the first half. Maia launched a powerful shot in stride as he approached the 18-yard box, and it found the top right corner on a rope.
"It was just an incredible individual effort," Blair said. "Matheus did a great job of seeing space in front of him and attacking it. What a rip. It was just individual excellence."
Maia's skillful strike gave Baylor a 1-0 lead at halftime. The Red Raiders remained aggressive in cutting off lanes for the Blue Tornado but did not press forward as much, giving the hosts some time on their end of the pitch.
In what would end up being McCallie's best chance, Andrew Landsbergen got a pass near the top of the box and turned in toward the goal, taking a touch before hitting a left-footed shot. It was right at keeper Mats Pokela, and the recent North Carolina signee was able to knock it away.
With its numbers back, Baylor eventually got the counterattack it was looking for. Christian Stophel broke free along the sideline and turned in, slipping a cross past a diving keeper. Lew Pride was on the other end for the finish.
The goal seemed to open up more opportunities for Baylor, which continued to give McCallie fits on both ends of the field.
"We're trying to find our identity," Cushenbery said. "We lost two of our best players in Jonah Bryan and Noah Tremain. We run a three-back system, and that's two of them right there. We're trying to figure out personnel and our identity.
"If you're going to be growth-minded, you have to be willing to find your weaknesses, and they definitely exposed some things tonight. Everyone on our side feels good. We'll watch the video and figure some things out."
Aside from the final score, the two teams were fairly evenly matched on the stat sheet. Baylor held an 8-7 edge in shots and keepers Pokela and Henry Hooks had a save each. McCallie's Andrew Prescott also tallied a save.
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