When Texas steps out onto the field at Mike A. Myers Stadium on Friday, it will be the first time the program has hosted an NCAA tournament match since 2014.
Most of the players on Texas’ roster were still in high school when the Longhorns beat Rice in that 2014 first-round match, but then again Angela Kelly’s young team is developing a habit of firsts.
Texas (13-3-2) started the season unbeaten through its first 13 matches, a first in program history. In September, the Longhorns beat West Virginia for the first time since the Mountaineers joined the Big 12.
Perhaps the only negative first came on Nov. 1, when the team’s 17 underclassmen lost their first college postseason match, a 2-1 setback to Baylor in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City.
“That was their first taste of an elimination game,” Kelly said. “(Friday) night is going to be the same. But this same young team had taken this program to 12-0, something that this program hadn’t done in its history. They’re very capable of taking the next step.”
North Texas (14-3-4), seeded fifth, should be a familiar opponent for the fourth-seeded Longhorns. The teams played each other on Aug. 27 in Denton, a 1-0 win for Texas on a late goal by sophomore forward Cyera Hintzen.
Hintzen leads the team with seven goals and five assists.
“They’re very aggressive and they always compete with us,” Hintzen said of the Mean Green. “We always know that it’s going to be a battle. We just need to go out there and be confident and play our style.”
Still, the offense has dried up recently. Texas last scored multiple goals in a 3-2 win over Texas Tech on Sept. 29. But the Longhorns also haven’t given up more than two goals in a match all season; they have 11 shutouts.
Since that 11-0 start, however, Texas has gone 2-3-2.
“Our confidence is no different than what it was in the beginning of the season,” said Katie Glenn, a sophomore midfielder from Round Rock who has five goals and three assists. “We might have gotten off our horse a little bit, but I think everyone is right there and we’re ready to compete and do well.”
Friday’s winner will meet either Alabama or Clemson in the second round, which likely will be played at Duke. For now, the Longhorns are relishing in the opportunity to play in an NCAA tournament match at home.
“To be be able to step on the field in November is a big accomplishment for us,” Glenn said. “I think we’re all really excited to play again. It’s basically a new season for us, so we’re all just really excited and ready to compete.”
North Texas at Texas, 5 p.m., LHN