LUBBOCK, Texas – No. 17 Texas Tech is up for a big road test in Waco before heading to Austin for another match with huge implications in the race for a Big 12 regular season title. The third-place Red Raiders are just five points out from leading Oklahoma State, and the conference's top six teams are all within striking distance as the season enters its final two weeks.
"There's a big challenge whenever you go to Waco and Austin, but there's also a big opportunity," said head coach Tom Stone. "We're in it for the long haul, and if we get a chance to push for the end in the league, we're going to do it."
The trip will start in Waco against a Baylor squad off to a slower-than-usual start but still ever-dangerous – especially at home. The Bears (7-5-3, 3-3-0) are fierce when playing at Betty Lou Mays Soccer Complex, and have kept the Red Raiders from gaining three points there since 2007.
Tech's last game against Baylor was a thriller. With Kansas City the setting and a Big 12 Championship game berth on the line, the two squads went to overtime tied 1-1. The Bears struck just before halftime, but Kirsten Davis knocked in the equalizer just after the start of the second half. Baylor ultimately netted the golden goal to advance, but the game showed the level of excitement brought when the two teams meet on the field.
Though many of the names and faces have changed since then, Stone insists the same style will be prevalent in Baylor's play.
"They're a really well-coached team and they know how to win," he said of the 2018 Big 12 regular season champions. "They're young and trying to fill the shoes of some of the players that graduated last year, and they've done a good job of it. I think you're going to see what you always do when we play Baylor, which is a hard-fought game."
Texas will present another challenge on Sunday, with both the Longhorns and Red Raiders separated – at the moment – by just one point. Austin will play host to another grind of a Sunday game, this one of course with the added excitement of tournament seeding on the line. Tech took down the 17th-ranked Longhorns at home last year in a game for the ages. Over 84 minutes of fast and physical soccer was capped off with a game-winning dagger from Davis, who broke free from the back line and netted the goal to lift the Red Raiders over Texas in front of a season-high 2,041 fans at the John Walker Soccer Complex.
Sunday's game is shaping up to be no less entertaining, especially considering that four of the last six meetings between the two have gone to overtime. The last 10 games have gone both ways, with Tech winning four, Texas five and one ending in a draw.
"It's the key in every game," Stone said. "Texas will try to imprint their style on us, and we've got aspects of our team that they'll have to deal with. Both teams will be tired of course, but we look forward to this game. It'll come down to who shows up on the day."
Kickoff in Waco is set for 7 p.m. on Thursday. First touch at Texas will be at 1 p.m. Sunday. Links to stats, streams and more are above.