Texas Tech’s Tom Stone is not one to mince his words.
So, when the 11th-year Red Raiders head coach praised a pair of freshman forwards – Ally Griffin and Kirsten Davis — saying they may likely be the quick fix to the Red Raiders sputtering offense from a season ago – it took on a bit of credence.
But, like any young player making the adjustment from high school to college, there were struggles.
Neither first-year collegiate forward had scored a goal in the first three matches, a far-cry from Griffin (49 goals) and Davis (37) who combined for 86 scores during their final prep campaign.
Then, the magical moment presented itself in the third match: Davis scored in the 85th minute to power Texas Tech to a 1-0 road victory over the University of San Diego.
It proved to be the spark needed for Davis, but also challenged her fellow freshman forward to find the back of the net.
“It was definitely a great feeling to score my first goal,” Davis said, cracking a smile, as her score helped the Red Raiders bounce back following a 3-0 loss to Pepperdine. “But, I couldn’t have done it without my team. We had to be fully focused all 90 minutes. Coming off of the loss on Friday (against Pepperdine), we were showing everyone what we’re made of.
“We’ve practiced those runs so many times in practice. … We had so many shots all across the board from different people, they just weren’t falling in. We were finally able to get one in.”
Griffin and Davis had not scored goals for lack of effort.
The duo — which has notched 52 shots, including 27 on goal — have been the catalyst for more than several scoring opportunities throughout the match.
Griffin, who scored her first career goal Sept. 3 at home against Appalachian State, provided an early spark that helped the Red Raiders score three more goals. Griffin, who corralled a pass from Brooke Denesik on the left wing, needed a couple of touches before she fired the ball into the back of the net.
“They’ve definitely stepped their game up,” said Denesik, a junior defender. “They keep scoring goals. And, even though they’re new, you wouldn’t even be able to tell because they’re scoring some big-time goals for us.”
Following the scoring drought, Stone has felt his early-season praise was validated as the duo has combined for seven of the teams 13 total goals. Griffin leads the way with four, while Davis is a close second with three as both rank No. 1 and No. 2 on the squad.
“I think Ally and Kirsten are similar to the players that we thought they were,” Stone said. “Ally has a top-end in front of goal that is evolving. Like, it was good when she got here, and the college game has pushed her to hit it harder, pull the trigger faster, beat people quicker. And she’s responded to that.
“And I think the same thing with KD (Kirsten Davis). We’ve always knew KD could score. We knew she was strong. But now she’s playing against women, 22-year-olds that have been in the weight room for four years, so it’s bringing out the beasty side of her game. … We’re thankful that we’ve got those two for four years.”
Going into its Big 12 opener against Kansas State, Texas Tech (7-2) is hoping to earn some top-notch performances from its freshmen duo in the present.
The addition of Jade King, a sophomore forward who led the team with six goals last season, appears to add another dynamic and scoring threat to an already deep and talented roster up top.
“Never hurts to get your leading scorer back,” Stone said. “That’s something that we’ve been waiting on. And it did open the door for a lot of young players to get great minutes. But at the same time, Jade stepped on the field and you could see some maturity there that she didn’t have a year ago. … You think about Gwennie (Puente), Jordie (Harr), Jade (King), KD (Kirsten Davis), Ally (Griffin), Nat (Natalie Schmutz), that’s a lot of really good attacking personalities that can be on the field either together or in shifts.”
The Wildcats (5-3-1), who christen their first year of conference play against the Red Raiders, are led by freshman Brookelynn Entz and junior Morgan Mauck on offense. The duo have combined for five goals — Entz netting three.
“I can’t be the only one who thinks this, but this has got to be the first-year team ever assembled,” Stone said of Kansas State, which is on a two-match winning streak. “First-year teams just get crushed in conference play, for the most part. And these guys are not going to get crushed by anyone. … We know how tough it’s going to be, and we’re going to have to be ready.”
With a stout defense which has turned in six shutouts this season, and offense essentially finding its next gear, the Red Raiders certainly look like a team ready to make a run in conference play.
“The freshmen have completely come in and changed this team,” Texas Tech’s Cassie Boren said of the entire freshmen class, including Griffin and Davis. “They’re rocking the boat, which is exactly what we want them to do. We want them to be fighting for positions and challenging upperclassmen for minutes. … Everybody is on board and everybody is on the same page.”
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