Aug. 11, 2011
NORMAN, Okla. - The 2011 Sooner soccer team reported to campus last week and already faces its first test this Saturday at 7 p.m. in an exhibition game at Arkansas.
The season opener is slated for Friday, Aug. 19 at 7 p.m. against the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The Sooners will play five of their first six games at home, including a matchup with Tennessee on Aug. 21 at 1 p.m.
In preparation for the 2011 season, SoonerSports.com brings fans a two-part preview to breakdown this year's squad. Below is the second and final installment of the series. Click here for part one and don't forget to check out the 2011 OU soccer media guide, which features links to player bio pages on SoonerSports.com that will be updated throughtout the season with stats and notes.
BREAKDOWN OF THE SOONERS BY POSITION
OU returns eight starters from last year's team that won 12 games and tied a program record with 37 goals
Key Returner Kelsey Devonshire (Jr.) and Lisa Jett (Sr.)
Kelsey Devonshire followed up her freshman season, where she played every minute and recorded six shutouts, by blanking six more opponents during her sophomore campaign. A very physical keeper, Devonshire continues to evolve at the position and become more of a leader for OU's back line. Lisa Jett is the veteran in the group and was 2-0 in 2010, including a combined shutout. She also brings experience after transferring from UCLA after 2007.
Key Newcomer Tori Rocke (Sr.)
A native of Garden Grove, Calif., Tori Rocke brings three years of starting experience from Northern Arizona University. Rocke is NAU's all-time leader with 21 career shutouts and a .637 winning percentage (30-16-5).
Nelson on keepers:
"Kelsey had a good sophomore year. She has matured immensely and really peeked during the Big 12 Tournament, shutting out both Texas and Texas A&M. She is more comfortable communicating with her back line and has all the tools needed to be successful at the position. I've always said a good goalkeeper has to have a fearless mentality, exceptional confidence, be good with their feet, and obviously have good shot-stopping ability. We will look for Kelsey's kicking game to be an area she has developed since last year.
"Lisa had a break out year in 2010 from a performance standpoint. She and Kelsey battled for the starting position most of the season and we expect her to do the same this year. Lisa, with the help of her goalkeeper coach Trae Manny, has made significant strides developmentally, and her approach to the mental side of the position has matured.
"Tori is going to be a great addition to the team and will also compete for that starting position. She brings maturity, having received her undergraduate degree from NAU, and invaluable experience. She had a decorated career at NAU, consistently faced some of the top programs in the Pac-10, and performed very well."
Key Returner (s) Amy Petrikin, Kathryn Watson & Carrie Whigham (So.)
Carrie Whigham is a talented defender that has been a member of the U.S. National Team since age 15 and captained the U-18 squad in Spain last summer and attended camp with the U-20's in January 2011. Whigham has one of the deepest pedigrees of any Sooner in program history. She was a consistent staple in the back line in 2010 playing 90 minutes in every game, with the exception of the Big 12 Championship due to an injury. Her experience is invaluable to this year's back line that will debut a number of new faces. Amy Petrikin and Kathryn Watson developed significantly during the spring and were able to get a lot of quality game minutes. Both players are athletic and solid one-versus-one defenders.
Key Newcomer (s) Emily Bowman (Fr.) and Molly Richey (RS-Fr.)
While Molly Richey is a new face to Sooner fans, she does have a year of development under her belt with a redshirt season in 2010. She is an athletic and tenacious defender. Emily Bowman brings a great physical presence to the back line. She is a ball winner both in the air and in the tackle, and is composed in her distribution. She played at a high level prior to Norman as her club team won a national championship. So the coaches expect her to adjust quickly to the speed of the game at the collegiate level.
Nelson on defense:
"We expect the organization of our back line to be very good and we look forward to watching them flourish this fall. The spring allowed for a lot of position work and game experience. The defenders will have to be good one-versus-one and have a sound tactical understanding of the game and how we want to run a back line. We ask our outside backs to play major role in initiating our attack. Decision making in the attack will be the focus."
Key Returner (s) Zoe Dickson (So.), Dria Hampton (Jr.), Samantha Howell (So.) & Katharine Nutman (Jr.)
Juniors Dria Hampton and Katharine Nutman have deep pedigrees with their experience on the U.S. and English National teams, respectively. On top of their two-years of starting experience, OU also returns sophomores Zoe Dickson and Samantha Howell, who both played in every game as true freshmen, combining for 41 starts and 10 points. That experience, combined with the newcomer's potential to play at a high level, is the key to the midfield's success in 2011.
Key Newcomer(s) Alison Farrell (Jr.), Hannah Gordon (Fr.) & Abby Hodgen (Fr.)
The freshmen duo of Gordon and Hodgen gives Oklahoma depth in the midfield while Farrell brings Division I experience to the midfield after playing in 24 games with 12 starts at Oklahoma State in 2009.
Nelson on midfield:
"Dria Hampton is one of the most talented playmaker's in our conference. She has the ability to change a game with her creativity at any time. I have been extremely pleased with her commitment to continue evolving as a player. She plays a significant role in shaping the style of our attack.
"Kat Nutman moved in to a defensive midfield role for us last year and is a rock tactically for us on both sides of the ball. She reads the game extremely well and has the ability to keep possession for us. Sam had a great freshman year and was also a staple in our midfield. She covers a tremendous amount of ground both defensively and in the attack. The energy she adds to our midfield is crucial to our success.
"I expect the newcomers to contribute immediately in the midfield. Alison (Farrell) has Big 12 experience, good chemistry with Dria and Mooney having played club ball together, and has had the advantage of being with us all last year training. Abby (Hodgen) was recognized as one of the top players in the state in this age group. She is very versatile in the role she can play because she possesses qualities of both a defensive and playmaking midfielder. Hannah has a good soccer IQ and is technically talented, so we could see her in more of an attacking role."
Key Returner (s) Michelle Alexander (Sr.), Sage Coralli (Sr.), Annalisa Hall (So.), Kelsey Kraft (Sr.) & Caitlin Mooney (Jr.)
The forward position features another highly experienced group of players, led by Caitlin Mooney who was second on the team in scoring in 2011 with seven goals and three assists. Alexander, Coralli and Kraft bring three years of experience to the table while Hall played in all 23 games as a true freshman last year (12 starts).
Key Newcomer Kelly Price (Fr.)
Price comes from a competitive club atmosphere in Chicago, Illinois and her athletic potential is very high. She had success scoring in competitive environments at the club and prep level.
Nelson on forwards:
"Our attack is going to be very balanced, specifically with our forwards. We have balance in that we have speed to get behind defenses, the ability to make plays and the ability to hold the ball. The work put in by this group in the spring was exciting and fun to coach. I expect this group to be a little more composed in the attacking third and they have the capability to score a variety of different types of goals."