Big 12 Tournament looms for soccer

The breakthrough season for ISU's soccer program continues tonight when it plays Texas in the Big 12 Tournament.

The Iowa State soccer team, 11-5-3 overall, 6-3-1 in the Big 12, finished tied for second in the final regular season standings and earned a No. 3 seed in the Big 12 Conference Tournament. The Cyclones will take on No. 6 seed Texas (10-7-1, 6-4-0 Big 12) at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Blossom Soccer Stadium in San Antonio, Texas. The second-place finish and the No. 3 seed in the tournament are both program bests at Iowa State.

"Our team has accomplished great things this season and we are playing extremely well right now," Iowa State head coach Rebecca Hornbacher said. "It is the right time of year to be on the same page and in sync on and off the field heading into the Big 12 tournament. We are looking for our best conference tournament finish to cap of a great regular season."

Iowa State is 0-6-1 all-time in the Big 12 Tournament, with the lone tie coming vs. Texas A&M in 1999 where ISU advanced to the semifinals on penalty kicks.

Texas A&M won their second-consecutive regular season conference title with a 7-2-1 conference record (22 points), followed by Iowa State, Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska who collected 19 points to tie for second. Colorado earned the No. 2 seed via a tiebreaker do to their 4-0 win over ISU on Sept. 25.

ISU is in the midst of the best season in the 10-year history of soccer. The Cyclones are currently riding a three-game winning streak that includes consecutive shutouts over Oklahoma, 3-0 on Oct. 23 and then-No. 22 Nebraska, 2-0 on Friday. The win over Nebraska was the first in school history (0-9 previous). Iowa State is now 2-0 vs. nationally-ranked teams, which also includes a win over No. 18 Texas A&M, 1-0 in College Station on Oct. 7. Their victory over the Aggies was also the first in school history as the Cyclones were previously 0-10-1.

With 36 points (11 wins, three ties), the 2005 squad tied the 1997 team for the most points in school history. ISU's 19 points in the Big 12 standings (six wins, one tie) and their 22 goals scored in conference play are the most ever by an Iowa State team.

Sophomore goalkeeper Joanna Haig has been a wall in the net for ISU this season as she ended the regular season by tying or breaking virtually every school record. Haig set new single-season records for shutouts (7), goals-against-average (0.97), minutes (1763), and tied for first in wins with 11. The Inver Grove Heights, Minn., native's 19 career wins and nine career shutouts are tied for first and second, respectively on the ISU all-time list.

"Our defense has shut down many dangerous players in our conference and have been difficult to penetrate," Hornbacher said. "Joanna has been the consistency factor in the net and the whole defense has been on the same page."

Offensively, senior Amy Flores leads Iowa State with 17 points on eight goals and one assist. After scoring four goals in four consecutive games (Sept. 7-16), sophomore Renee de St. Aubin has goals in two of her last three games, including the game-winner at No. 22 Nebraska on Friday.

Texas, 10-7-1 overall and 6-4-0 in the Big 12, enters the conference tournament as the No. 6 seed. The Longhorns are led by sophomore forward Kelsey Carpenter who has 15 points (six goals, three assists). Sophomore midfielder Caitlin Kennedy counters with 14 points on five goals and four assists. Texas is anchored in goal by Dianna Pfenninger who has a 0.98 goals-against-average in 18 games, 10 starts, including three shutouts

The Cyclones have won three consecutive matches since a 2-1 setback to Texas back on Oct. 14 in Ames. In that match, senior Amy Flores scored a goal for the sixth time in seven games. Iowa State had a chance to tie with 11 minutes remaining, but Pfenninger made a remarkable save on a shot from Cyclone Erin Witte that looked destined for the top-right corner of the net. Pfenniger took a perfect line to the ball, sticking her left hand out to flick the ball just over the crossbar, preserving the Texas win. The Longhorns out-shot ISU 14-3 in the first period, but rebounded, out-shooting UT 10-8 in the second frame.

"We need to come out from the beginning and look to attack Texas," Hornbacher said. "We came out slow last time and then we created a lot of opportunities and were dangerous late in the game. I feel if we come out like we finished and set the tone of the game, we'll have a better result."

ISU is 1-11 all time vs. the Longhorns, the lone ISU win coming back in 1999, a 3-0 decision in Austin.

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