Last season, Oklahoma State won the Big 12 Championship, but it was TCU who made the run to the NCEA National Championship final. In 2015, Baylor broke the Cowgirls' three-year streak of conference titles with one of its own.
As we enter the 2017 spring season, the Big 12 once again appears to be highly competitive. Baylor ended the fall as the second-ranked team in the country while Oklahoma State came through at No. 5. TCU trails the Bears and Cowgirls in the conference standings, but head coach Haley Schoolfield has an extremely young team that improved as the fall went along.
"I think we finished the semester greatly improved from where we started," Schoolfield said. "We're a very, very young team and we developed quickly through the semester, and I intend for that to continue as we start the spring."
TCU alternated wins and losses the entire fall, but did pick up an impressive win at Fresno State in October. The Horned Frogs ended the fall with a close loss at Baylor in a performance that showed they were indeed much-improved from the start of the season.
Schoolfield's team will open the spring by hosting that same Bears team in a unique and exciting environment.
"We always love to host Baylor," Schoolfield said. "They're a great team to play. This year, we will be hosting the hunt seat portion at our home at Turning Point Ranch, and then we're going to have the western portion as part of the Forth Worth Stock Show and rodeo that night down at the Will Rogers Memorial Center. It is one of the most fun days of the year. We know with hosting Baylor it will be a packed house and an electric crowd. We're really excited about putting our team to the test."
While Baylor is the highest-ranked team in the Big 12, it's Oklahoma State who currently leads in the conference with a 2-0 league record. After a loss to SMU in the second meet of the year, the Cowgirls reeled off three straight impressive wins over Baylor, TCU and Georgia.
Oklahoma State is obviously in a great position as the spring competitions begin, and the Cowgirls hope to win their fifth Big 12 title in six years.
Baylor is close behind, however, and also ended the fall with three straight victories.
"I like where we are," Baylor head coach Ellen White said. "We've competed against some top teams, and we have some top teams left to compete against. I think that's going to really set us up to be ready for championships."
The Bears will have to overcome an extremely tough spring schedule as they face league foes TCU and Oklahoma State as well as Georgia and Auburn from the SEC and SMU and Fresno State from the UEC. White is hoping her team uses the confidence gained from the successful fall to help make it through the spring schedule.
"For us, just the confidence that whatever horse they draw they're ready to go ride and make it happen," White said of the mindset she would like her riders to have. "That they look good, and do exactly what the judge wants to see."
Big 12 Standings
1. Oklahoma State- 4-1, 2-0 Big 12
2. Baylor- 6-2, 1-1 Big 12
3. TCU- 3-3, 0-2 Big 12