Big 12 Correspondent
Taylor Lytle has needed just two seasons to become a fixture in the Texas Tech record book. But even with statistical success, she says she can still improve.
The sophomore from Las Cruces, N.M., broke three school records in 2009 campaign on her way to earning All-Big 12 first team honors and helping lead the Red Raiders to its first non-losing record since 1998.
Those individual honors, Lytle says, are merely a reflection of the team's success.
"It's a good accomplishment, but without my team I wouldn't have made first team," Lytle said. "Being able to have more options on the field helps me out more because there's not just one goal scorer on our team. It helps to have a variety of players."
Entering the season as arguably Tech's top scoring threat, Lytle began the season with at least a point in each of the first seven matches. She had eight assists in those seven contests, one short of the single-season school record that was eventually shattered.
Against TCU, Lytle dished out a school-record three assists, including the game-winner to Brittney Harrison in Tech's 4-3 double-overtime victory.
Lytle was leading the nation in assists entering Big 12 play. Texas Tech coach Tom Stone said that conference foes concentrated on stopping Lytle at midfield. Even with the increase in attention, Lytle remained Tech's top scoring threat from either a pass or shot attempt.
"At first, Taylor was frustrated by all the attention she was getting from other teams," Stone said. "She ultimately saw it as a challenge, and she seemed to raise her game to whatever level was needed on the day. Teams put a lot of pressure on Taylor, but she stood up to it and has evolved her game as a result."
Only one other Texas Tech player had been named first team All-Big 12 (Jennifer Hamm in 1998). Lytle finished with 11 assists and four goals for 19 points, second-most on the team behind redshirt freshman Dawn Ward.
Lytle's Texas Tech career hasn't been without its challenges. Only several weeks from reporting for fall camp in 2007, Lytle suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). That kept her sidelined for what would have been her freshman season and forced Stone to find replacements to fill her spot at the midfield, where she was expected to start.
Stone said there was a positive aspect to Lytle being forced to watch instead of play.
"Sitting out gave Taylor a chance to see college soccer from the sideline and see how she might develop her game to be effective," Stone said. "She wasn't an effective defender and wasn't as strong as we wanted her, but she saw what she needed to work on, and give her credit, she went out and got stronger. It's really showing in how she's playing right now."
Lytle recovered from her knee injury and took the field in 2008 as a redshirt freshman season. She led the Red Raiders with 18 points and eight assists. After two seasons, her name appears in the top 10 in practically every category in the Tech record book, including the top spot for single-season assists and shot attempts.
Stone expects Lytle's leadership role to increase in 2010 when she'll be a two-year starter surrounded by nine returning starters.
"I definitely think me being a junior and everything that happened for me during my freshman and sophomore years that I will have more of a leadership role," Lytle said. "All the girls coming in will look to me for guidance and to get them going based off everything I have done in the past. I definitely think I will have to be more of a leader next year, and I'm excited for that."