Soccer season is just around the corner and throughout the week, SoonerSports.com has been previewing the upcoming season for the Oklahoma Sooners. The complete preview is broken up into three sections with the following featuring the final installment, the OU midfield and 2004 schedule. Check the links at the bottom of the page to view the previous previews on the season outlook, the OU defenders and forwards.
The center of the OU midfield will look the same as it did in 2003 with junior Lauren MacIver controlling the center of the field again for the Sooners. The defensive center midfielder will most likely be Samantha Faulkner with freshman Lauren Harris also looking for time.
MacIver led all OU midfielders last year in points (13) and goals (4), while leading the team with five assists.
“The center of our midfield is solid,” said Evans. “MacIver and Faulkner are the heart and soul of this team and both of them have the ability to play outside of their positions if needed.”
In addition to the center midfielders, the Sooners also feature some depth at the wing positions. Evans will look for the two outside midfielders to spread the field and set up the frontline, while still getting back on defense.
“The outside of the midfield definitely presents us with some options,” said Evans. “We return Andrea Hurley, who did a good job in her first year. And Jenny Jones, before her injury in 2002, did a great job in the midfield and could see time there again.
“Two incoming freshmen, Shana All and Colleen Keester, have the ability to play outside in the midfield or up front. In addition, both Ashley King and Lauren King showed promise in the spring to be able to break into this fall’s lineup. We will just have to find the right group that will compliment each other on both sides of the ball.”
Oklahoma will open its 2004 season with three home contests beginning with Saint Louis on Friday, Aug. 27, marking the first meeting between the schools. Two days later, the Sooners play host to SMU, followed by another Friday evening home contest against TCU on Sept. 3.
Said Evans, “We are really excited about kicking off the season at home with three consecutive games. TCU and Saint Louis were both on the postseason bubble last year and SMU, a perennial powerhouse, earned a bid. Some might question having games against that type of caliber in the first part of the season, but we view it as a great opportunity to face tough competition in preparation for the Big 12 season.”
Other non-conference contests for OU include a trip to Fayetteville, Ark., to take on Arkansas on Sept. 5. Then on Sept. 10 and 12 the Sooners head to Tulsa, for the Oklahoma Shoot-out to battle intrastate rivals Oral Roberts and Tulsa respectively. Finally, a pair of games in Phoenix, Ariz., await the Sooners, pitting them against San Diego State and Arizona State on Sept. 17 and Sept. 19, respectively.
“I think this year’s schedule is another example of us keeping consistent with tough non-conference competition over the years,” said Evans. “Last year our strength of schedule got us into the NCAA Tournament and I think if we put together another winning season, this year’s slate will do the same.”
Oklahoma will open Big 12 play at home against Missouri on Sept. 24 only to have a week off before hitting the road for four consecutive road games against Texas on Oct. 1, Texas A&M on Oct. 3, Baylor on Oct. 8 and Texas Tech on Oct. 10.
The Sooners wrap up the regular season with four home games in their final five outings. OU hosts Iowa State on Oct. 15, Kansas on Oct. 17 and Nebraska on Oct. 24. The final road contest has OU at Colorado on Oct. 22. The season finale will feature the yearly Bedlam matchup with the Cowgirls battling the Sooners for the first time in Norman since 2001. After the Bedlam game, Oklahoma will make its way to San Antonio, Texas, for the 2004 Big 12 Soccer Tournament on Nov. 3, 5 and 7.
“The Big 12 is one of the better soccer conferences out there,” said Evans. “We proved that collectively last year when we sent eight teams to the NCAA postseason. Our goal is obviously to put together a strong enough season to be an at-large team, but ultimately we are striving for the automatic bid by winning the Big 12 Tournament.”
In 2003, Oklahoma soccer reached a goal it has been striving for since the program’s inception in 1995. The year produced the school’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament and the squad finished 8-7-5. The Sooners are looking to make a trip to the NCAA postseason a regular occurrence.
Defense has been the trademark of Oklahoma soccer for the last few years. Over the past three seasons, the OU defense has played a major role in establishing John Crain Field as one of the more difficult places to earn a road win in the Big 12. Remaining healthy will be key to this year's defense.