Feb. 27, 2008
NORMAN, Okla. -- First year head soccer coach Nicole Nelson completed her staff on Wednesday, naming Graeme (pronounced Gram) Abel an assistant coach. Abel comes to Norman after coaching the past three years on the University of Nevada's staff.
"Graeme is an incredible addition to our staff," said Nelson. "He has been exposed to the game at the highest level as a young professional in England, which adds a unique perspective to our program. He has also been mentored by some of the top goalkeeper coaches in both the United States and Europe. Graeme is regarded as one of the top young goalkeeper coaches in the nation and we are excited that he has decided to become a Sooner."
Abel joined Nevada as an assistant coach in August 2005 and worked primarily with the Wolf Pack's goalkeepers. With Abel on staff, Nevada enjoyed 30 wins and three straight trips to the Western Athletic Conference tournament, including the 2006 WAC Championship and the program's only NCAA tournament appearance in 2006. In addition, Abel's pupils helped anchor a Nevada defense that recorded 23 shutouts in three seasons (Nevada had three in program history prior to his arrival). He also handled aspects relating to compliance and recruiting with the Nevada soccer program.
"I'd like to thank Coach Nelson and the University of Oklahoma for the chance to be a part of the Sooner soccer program," said Abel. "The commitment to excellence at OU has been very evident since my first meeting with Coach Nelson and all the way through the hiring process. I look forward to assisting this staff in bringing conference and national recognition to OU and its soccer program. I'd also like to thank the University of Nevada and its athletic administration. My time at Nevada has helped prepare me for this exciting step in my career."
In 2007, Abel and Nevada advanced to the program's third straight appearance in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament and held nine opponents to one goal or less, including three shutouts, throughout the season.
Under Abel's direction in 2006, the Wolf Pack made its first NCAA Tournament appearance after clinching the WAC Tournament Championship in penalty kicks.
Abel's starting goalkeeper, Caitlin Holmes, was named the tournament's most valuable player. Holmes made her mark in the Nevada's record books under Abel's tutelage, where she is the program's career and single-season leader in shutouts and goals-against average.
In addition, the 2006 Wolf Pack recorded a school-record 13 wins and ranked second in the conference in goals allowed and goals-against average. Abel and Nevada posted 12 shutouts, a 0.61 goals-against average and allowed 14 goals overall in 2006, all program bests.
During his first year in Reno, Abel helped lead the Wolf Pack to a then-program record 11 wins (11) and their first postseason appearance (WAC Tournament). The Wolf Pack were tabbed the nation's most-improved NCAA Division I program and again ranked second in the Western Athletic Conference with eight shutouts.
Prior to his stint in Nevada, Abel was an assistant coach for the men's and women's teams at Brescia University in Owensboro, Ky., where he spent the 2004 season leading the Bearcats' goalkeepers.
The Liverpool, England native, also has experience in other levels of the sport. He was the head goalkeeper coach for the Nevada Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program and served as an Olympic Development Program Coach with Kentucky Youth Soccer and currently assists with the Region IV ODP and NSCAA (National Soccer Coaches' Association of America) Goalkeeper staffs.
Abel started his collegiate playing career at Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, Ky., from 1999-2000, where he led the program to National Championship, before transferring to Brescia University to complete his eligibility. He earned All-America honors during his only year at Lindsey Wilson College and also was named the NAIA National Tournament MVP in 1999. At Brescia, Abel again earned All-America honors in 2003 and was named the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Association (KIAC) Conference Player of the Year in 2002 and 2003.
A 2004 graduate of Brescia University, Abel has an Advanced National Diploma and a Level II goalkeeping license, both from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA.) He also holds a United States Soccer Federation (USSF) National "B" coaching license.
Abel also has professional playing experience in England, his native country.