STILLWATER — When Oklahoma topped then-No. 3 Oklahoma State at John Crain Field seven weeks ago by scoring the game’s only goal on its only shot on goal, the narrative was clear.
It had to be the biggest win in program history. It was Bedlam, the Cowgirls were a top-five opponent. How could it not be the biggest win in program history?
Only now it is no longer even the most important game this season. Sunday’s Bedlam draw should be much more telling.
A 1-1 final, OU had the best of it.
The Sooners outshot the Cowgirls 23 to 19, put 12 on goal to the Cowgirls’ five and made OSU keeper Adrianna Franch work like she’s never worked before.
Generally considered the best net-minder in the nation, Franch had to stop a career-high 10 shots, including a Renae Cuellar penalty kick with 3:10 remaining in the first of two sudden-death overtime periods.
The Sooners were so good that there can’t help but be a where’s-this-been-all-season aspect to it. Also, they were so good it’s crazy not to think the rest of the season should be much better than everything that happened prior to Sunday.
“The way we played tonight, it’s something I’ve always felt we had the ability to do,” first-year Sooner coach Matt Potter said. “I think, statistically, we feel like we won.”
OU was on top of its game from the start. The difference was precision. The Sooners did not waste touches. They had purpose.
“We reached another level as a team” Cuellar said. “We performed well.”
For a while, it looked like it might be one of those horribly unfortunate games where the better team on the field just has to live with being snakebit.
OSU got on the board first in the 38th minute when Kiely Delaney headed home Taylor Matthews’ corner kick. The Sooners were enjoying the best of it but could not crack the scoreboard.
Finally, 9:01 into the second half, off an indirect free kick maybe 24 yards in front of and to Franch’s right, Molly Richey tapped the ball to Cuellar, who began dribbling parallel to the top of the penalty box, before letting go with a hard grounder through traffic. Franch didn’t react until it was too late, and the ball rolled into the net’s bottom left corner.
The Cowgirls’ best moments came over the next half hour when they earned most of their nine second-half corner kicks. There were many scary moments but the Sooners survived them all.
OU was better in overtime than it had been over the first 90 minutes, getting five shots off and making Franch save four of them. OU’s Kelsey Devonshire made four in regulation and didn’t have to make any more.
Now it’s about what happens next.
The Sooners are 4-6-4 and 0-2-2 in the Big 12 Conference. Playing less than their best most of the season, they’re still climbing out of a hole. Only five regular season games remain: at Virginia Tech Oct. 7 before finishing the conference slate against Kansas and TCU at home before traveling to West Virginia and Iowa State.
Sooner defender and forward Annalisa Hall was robbed repeatedly by Franch. Still, she think the Sooners might have unlocked themselves.
“That’s what we’re hoping,” she said. “Hopefully, we’ll build on this and not go back to where we’ve been.”
They have a template.
“We’ve talked about having a focus, having a discipline and having a commitment,” Potter said. “I think we’ve finally figured it out.”
After it had been over by about 15 minutes, somebody handed Potter the “Bedlam Cup,” signifying that OU had won the season’s Bedlam soccer series.
It made sense.
The Sooners beat the Cowgirls in Norman and tied them in Stillwater. But OSU coach Colin Carmichael, who was convinced the referees had it in for his team all 110 minutes, begged to differ.
Apparently, because the Cowgirls won the Cup last year and the only Bedlam game that counts in the conference standings was played Sunday night to a tie, he felt the Bedlam Cup still belonged to his team. Potter sort of shrugged and handed the trophy over.
“It’s a tie, and we won it last year,” Carmichael said to one of his hands as he walked away. “So they haven’t won it.”
The Sooners appeared to win much more. They appeared to win their future.
Clay HorningFollow me @email@example.com