When Kelly showed up to coach the University of Tennessee 12 years ago, the Lady Volunteers were among the NCAA’s lowest-performing programs in the nation. No NCAA appearances. No SEC Tournament victories. No first-team All-SEC honors, and little idea of direction or identity.
Twelve years later, however, Kelly’s resume reflects the unabashed success she achieved in Knoxville. Under Kelly’s watch, the Lady Vols reached nine NCAA tournament appearances, produced six All-Americans, and posted a .644 winning percentage, rapidly raising the program from doormat to contender.
Now, Kelly hopes to translate that SEC success to the Big 12, leading a Longhorns program that flamed out of the first round of the NCAA Tournament in 2011.
For the first four games of the season, the Longhorns played opponents as tightly as possible. After taking the opening match against Texas State 1-0, the Longhorns held off Dayton to win a 3-2 overtime contest at home. On their first road game, however, Texas dropped a 1-0 nailbiter to the University of Arkansas—the same score they lost by to North Carolina State only five days later.
Sitting at 2-2 on the year, and having given up as many goals as they’d scored, Kelly’s squad sat listless. The Longhorns hadn’t lost three in a row since 2001 and, returning to home against Toledo on Sunday, the team looked to right their season while it was still fresh.
It didn’t take long for the women to put their season on the correct track. After a couple near-misses, Texas tallied its first goal when senior Kristin Cummins slotted a shot from outside the 18-yard box during the 40th minute, her third goal of the season.
Then, in the 69th minute, freshman Lindsey Meyer headed a corner kick past the Toledo goalie, the first goal for the native of Coppel, Texas. Only two minutes later, sophomore Allison Smith added a bit of insurance, rocketing a left-footed shot to boost the score to 3-0, the game’s final score.
And the game wasn’t merely an offensive highlight—for only the 14th time in team history, the Longhorns prevented their opponent from landing a single shot in the first half.
The Longhorns will have an opportunity to forge a winning streak at home this Friday against Virginia in the Time Warner Cable Texas Invitational opener. With a winning record, and having outshot opponents 65-29, it seems that Kelly is making a quick mark on the program.
Photo courtesy Texas Athletics.