The 2019-2020 TCU Athletics calendar officially gets underway tonight with TCU Soccer and they are opening things up this season with a big-time matchup. The Horned Frogs, ranked No. 28 in the United Soccer Coaches poll, will be taking on the Florida State Seminoles, ranked No. 1 in the poll and the defending national champions, in Tallahassee.
Last season, TCU put together an impressive campaign that saw them reach their 3rd-consecutive NCAA Tournament and win their first-ever NCAA Tournament game, defeating BYU 2-1 in the First Round. The Horned Frogs finished the season with a 13-5-3 overall record that included a 5-3-1 mark in Big 12 play. Hopes should be high for another great year and a return to the NCAA Tournament as many key pieces return.
The first key returner for TCU is Emily Alvarado, a junior goalkeeper from El Paso who has international experience playing for the Mexico national team. Last season, Alvarado saw plenty of action on the field and stood tall between the posts, only allowing .94 goals per game and helping lead the Frogs to a 9-5-1 record in her appearances. She posted six shutouts last season and was instrumental in the victory over BYU with six saves. Alvarado should be helped out by an experienced back line, which is usually a strength of Coach Eric Bell’s teams.
While Alvarado is busy protecting the net, returning sophomore forward Messiah Bright will be causing plenty of issues for opposing goalkeepers at the opposite end of the field. Bright put together one of the most impressive freshman years in TCU Soccer history and was a menace for opponents. She was tied with a team-high six goals on the season, three of which were game-winners. For her efforts on the field, Bright raked in the honors, earning Big 12 Co-Freshman of the Year, along with being named to the Big 12 All-Freshman Team, All-Big 12 Second Team, and TopDrawerSoccer.com Freshmen Best XI.
Another sophomore forward to watch will be Maddy Warren, a strong finisher who tied Bright with six goals on the season. Warren led the Frogs in scoring with sixteen points (six goals and four assists) and was also named to the Big 12 All-Freshman Team.
The final key returner to watch this season is junior midfielder Yazmeen Ryan, who put in the game-winning goal in the historic victory over BYU. Ryan led the team with four game-winning goals and finished tied with Bright for second in scoring with 13 points (five goals and three assists), despite appearing in four fewer games. Big things are expected from her this season as she was named to the MAC Hermann Trophy Award Watch List and she joined Bright on the preseason All-Big 12 team.
Taking on the defending national champions will be no easy task though. The Seminoles finished last season 20-4-3 overall and were 11-2-3 in their home confines. Their only four losses came against ACC opponents and they outscored all opponents 52-13 throughout the season. Florida State is led by a quartet of nationally recognized players, all of whom were named to the MAC Hermann Trophy Award Watch List and the TopDrawerSoccer.com Preseason Best XI Teams. Sophomore midfielder Yujie Zhao was named to the First Team, while senior forward Deyna Castellanos and junior defender/midfielder Malia Berkely were named to the Second Team, and sophomore midfielder Jaelin Howell was named to the Third Team. Also worth noting is junior defender/midfielder Gabby Carle, who has started a majority of the games since arriving in Tallahassee and was a member of the Canada national team at the Women’s World Cup.
This match will be a homecoming of sorts for Coach Bell, who spent six seasons with Florida State prior to being named head coach at TCU. He served as recruiting coordinator there for his entire time there and spent two seasons as an assistant and four seasons as associate head coach. Bell helped them lay the foundation for where they are today by bringing some of the best recruiting classes they had ever had. During his time there, the Seminoles went 106-31-13 and made their first trip to the national championship game in 2007.
Coach Bell certainly is not nervous about testing his team early in the season, as the Frogs will also be hosting SMU and Ohio State, as well as travelling to Arizona, to face teams that are all also receiving votes in the United Soccer Coaches poll. These should provide good opportunities for the Frogs to boost their resume in non-conference, but more importantly, it will prepare them for a difficult Big 12 slate that features four teams (West Virginia, Baylor, Texas, and Texas Tech) ranked in the Top 25, along with Kansas who is also receiving votes.
The Frogs and Seminoles kick off tonight at 6:00pm CT and the game can be seen on ACC Network Extra, available through ESPN+ ($).