Aug. 30, 2007
NORMAN, Okla. -- The OU soccer team opens the 2007 season against the nation's leading scorer in 2006, Alabama A&M. Friday also marks the Bulldogs' first game of 2007 and the contest is slated for a 7:30 p.m. start time on Friday, Aug. 31 at John Crain Field at the OU Soccer Complex.
OU will also entertain in-state rival Oral Roberts for its season opener on Sunday, Sept. 2 at 3 p.m.
A live webcast and live stats will be available for both games on SoonerSports.com.
TICKETS AND PROMOTIONS
Seats to this weekend's game are available for $7 (adult), $5 (youth) and $3 for groups of ten or more at the OU Athletics Ticket Office (800-456-4668) and at SoonerSports.com. The gates will open an hour before the game.
The first 250 fans through the gates on Friday will receive a free schedule T-shirt. On Sunday, the first 250 fans will receive a free schedule magnet and all fans will receive a schedule poster available for autographs following the game. Also, "Kids Eat FREE Sunday," each child under 13 will receive one coupon for a free hot dog, popcorn and soda.
SCOUTING ALABAMA A&M
OU and Alabama A&M will be meeting for the first time on Friday. The Bulldogs led the nation in scoring (4.11 goals per game) in 2006 and return the leading scorer, Belinda Kanda. As a freshman, Kanda (20 goals, nine assists) posted the nation's top scoring averages in 2006 by recording 1.25 goals and 3.06 points per game. She is the preseason favorite for player of the year in the Southwestern Athletic Conference for the second straight year. The Bulldogs were picked to win the SWAC after finishing 2006 at 14-5 overall (conference runner-up). Alabama A&M lost its only 2007 preseason game, 3-1, to Birmingham Southern (Aug. 24).
SCOUTING ORAL ROBERTS
Oral Roberts finished sixth in the Summit League last season and were picked to finish in the same spot in 2007. The Golden Eagles, who finished 2006 with a 5-9-3 overall record, return six starters from that squad, including seniors Emily Gagnon (six goals and three assists) and Correne Walker (three goals), both of whom were all-conference selections last season. In their lone exhibition game, the Golden Eagles topped Oklahoma Baptist, 2-1, at the ORU Soccer Complex.
The Sooners are 5-0 when playing the Golden Eagles at home. The in-state rivals have met in each of the last 10 seasons and Oklahoma holds an 8-2 advantage in the overall series. The two met last season in Norman and the Sooners were victorious by a 3-0 count. ORU last beat OU on Sept. 10, 2004 in a 1-0 overtime contest at the ORU Soccer Complex. The other win came during the 1998 season, this time a 2-1 double overtime game at ORU.
BOOTER ROOTERS TAILGATE
The Booter Rooters, the official booster club of the OU soccer program, will host a tailgate party on Friday, Aug. 31 prior to the season opener against Alabama A&M. That game is slated to start at 7:30 p.m. at John Crain Field at the OU Soccer Complex.
All 2006 members are invited to attend and rejoin for the 2007 season. Also, fans interested in joining are encouraged to stop by and learn more about the booster club. The event will begin an hour prior to the game.
OU WINS EXHIBITION OVER SMU
Oklahoma and SMU played 89 minutes of scoreless soccer at Wescott Field on Aug. 26 until the ball deflected off a Mustang defender on senior Tenesha Duncan's cross at the 88:59 mark. The Mustangs had trouble clearing the ball out of their defensive end and surrendered the only score of the game on their own goal.
ALL -ACCESS BROADCAST SCHEDULE
A live web cast will provided for select games this season and will be available on Oklahoma All-Access, SoonerSports.com's paid site. Lives stats will also be available for free for all of OU's home games and a portion of the road contests. Both links can be accessed on soccer's schedule page. The All-Access purchase helps support OU Athletics and memberships are available monthly for $9.95 or annually for $99.95. Below is a look at this season's schedule:
Friday, Aug. 31
Alabama A&M - 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 2
Oral Roberts - 3 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 4
Baylor - 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 19
Texas Tech - 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 26
Colorado - 7 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 28
Texas - 1 p.m.
ALKEK AND PALMER NAMED TO USA TEAM
Freshmen Lauren Alkek (Victoria, Texas) and Whitney Palmer (Plano, Texas) were selected to U.S. National Select Women's Team (Under-23) as announced by the United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA) on July 9. The two Sooners were part of a group of 32 members vying for spots on the national team at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
The Sooners return eight starters and 14 letterwinners from the 2006 squad that finished the year at 8-11-1. In addition, four players return with three years of starting experience in Shana All, Lauren Harris, Allyson Kucera and Jenny Nichols. Kucera has started the most games (57) than any other Sooner on the roster.
In addition to the eight returning starters from last season, the Sooners boast what could be the program's top recruiting class. Five of those freshmen (Lauren Alkek, Kelsey Allison, Ashley Bolden, Tiana Dickson and Whitney Palmer) started in the Sooners' lone exhibition game in 2007 against SMU. During the last six games of OU's spring schedule, Palmer tallied 10 goals.
SOONERS IN SEASON OPENERS
Oklahoma is 4-1-1 in the last six season openers. The Sooners' five-game unbeaten streak was ended last year when they dropped a 1-0 decision to Washington. The tie in that span came in 2004 against Saint Louis in Norman. OU is 5-5-1 lifetime in the first game of the year, including a 1-1-1 record at home.
EVANS VS. NON-CONFERENCE OPPONENTS
In eight years at OU, head coach Randy Evans is 43-20-5 (.664) against non-conference opponents. The Sooners finished 2006 with a 5-4 mark against teams outside of the Big 12. In 2005, OU posted its best non-conference record (8-1, .889 winning percentage) in program history. The last time OU had a losing non-conference record was during the 1999 season, Evans' first year.
0 - Tara Macdonald - Second tallest Sooner on the roster ... One of three Sooners to redshirt in 2006 ... She provides OU with the most depth at the position in recent memory.
1 - Jenny Nichols - Three-year starter who played every minute of the 2005 and 2006 seasons ... Second all-time at OU with 14 career shutouts ... Two-time Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week ... Led the Big 12 with seven shutouts in 2005.
2 - Ashley Farrand - Made the most starts (13) than any other freshman last season ... Ranked fourth on the club with three assists.
3 - Helen Ajufo - Two-year starter on defense ... 2006 CoSIDA Academic All-District second team.
4 - Ashley Bolden - Expected to start on the Sooners' backline ... Started preseason game against SMU on defense.
5 - Tiana Dickson - Expected to start in the OU midfield ... Sister of former OU softball All-American Norelle Dickson ... Started the preseason game against SMU in the midfield.
6 - Lauren Alkek - Named to the U-23 U.S. National Select Team in July ... Expected to starter for OU at the forward position ... Started the preseason game against SMU up top.
7 - Audri Habibi - Ranked third among Sooners in 2006 with four multi-point games ... Big 12 Newcomer of the Week on Oct. 10, 2006 ... Second on the 2006 squad with five assists.
8 - Whitney Palmer - Named to the U-23 U.S. National Select Team in July ... Expected to starter for OU at the forward position ... Started the preseason game against SMU up top.
9 - Kelsey Allison - Expected to starter for OU at the forward position ... Started the preseason game against SMU up top.
11 - Shana All - Three-year starter who ranks sixth in OU history with 10 assists and fifth with four game-winning goals.
12 - Lauren Harris - Senior captain ... Three-year starter with 54 career starts ... Nine career assists ranks in OU's top 10 ... Moved to defense in the spring after playing in the midfield the previous three years.
13 - Caitlin Stojkovic - Redshirted her freshman season at South Carolina ... Can play any position on the field.
14 - Kate Leyendecker - Played in nine games as a freshman in 2006 ... Scored lone goal against Northern Iowa.
15 - Annie Hale - Strong, physical freshman defender from William P. Clements High School.
16 - Tenesha Duncan - Senior's seven career goals ranks second on the Sooners' current roster ... Played in 43 career games (17 starts) but limited in 2006 with injuries (knee and concussion).
17 - Kate Marr - Sophomore will compete for starting spot on defense ... Made two starts and played in 16 games in 2006.
18 - Allyson Kucera - Senior captain ... Three-year starter who leads the current roster with 10 career goals, total ranks eighth in OU history ... Leads the team with 57 career starts.
19 - Colleen Keester - Senior with 54 games played in the midfield and up top ... Made first career start last season and started seven games overall.
20 - Charla Baker - Sophomore who saw time against Northern Iowa in 2006 ... Skillfull defender.
21 - Brianne Frost - Freshman midfielder with good speed from Highland Park High School.
22 - Claire West - Freshman defender who will compete for a starting spot from the Ursuline Academy in Dallas, Texas.
24 - Katie Corbitt - Two-year starter on defense ... 2006 Academic All-Big 12 first team member.
25 - Ashley Mumma - Strong freshman defender who could start on the backline from Jenks High School.
26 - Ashlee Coleman - One of three Sooners to redshirt in 2006 ... Provides OU with depth in the midfield or defense.
31 - Casey Strong - Freshman goalkeeper from Wylie High School.
44 - Traci Dickenson - Junior with 27 games played ... Also lettered in softball over the last two seasons and was an All-Region and All-Big 12 honoree at 2B in 2007.
2007 SEASON PREVIEW
When discussing the 2007 season, head coach Randy Evans points to depth and chemistry as the two keys to having a successful year.
The 2007 Sooners should bring plenty of knowledge and leadership to the field with several returning letterwinners, including eight starters from 2006 and four players with three years of starting experience.
In addition, the 2007 recruiting class is perhaps the most talented group to arrive in Norman. If the newcomers make quick adjustments to the college game and mesh with the veterans, the coaching staff believes OU is poised to return to the form it displayed in 2005 when it set program records for wins (13), goals scored (37), assists (40) and points (114).
"The overall talent of this team is unbelievable and it gives us a tremendous opportunity to have a breakout season" said Evans.
The Sooners lost half of their scoring power from 2006 with the graduation of Kady Kelly and Savannah Scott, but returning for OU in 2007 is seniors Shana All (11 points), Audri Habibi (11 points), Lauren Harris (six points) and Tenesha Duncan (four points) and sophomore Ashley Farrand (three points).
Complimenting the offense will be a defense returning all but one starter from 2006 in Andrea Hurley. Defense has always been one of OU soccer's biggest strengths throughout the years and that trend is expected to continue in 2007.
COACH EVANS ON THE DEFENSE
"Our defense did a great job of keeping us in games last year and gave us the opportunity to win. With Lauren (Harris) leading the back line, the defense has automatically improved from last year. She is a strong player and so valuable that no matter where she plays on the field, that area is a strength for us.
"We also return starters Helen Ajufo and Katie Corbitt. If Helen can return to the form of her freshman year, when she was one of the top defenders in the Big 12, it will provide our defense with a big boost.
"Katie gives everything she has on the field. She earned a starting spot again this year with her hard work. She could also play in the midfield, but her first look will be in the back.
"Newcomers Ashley Bolden , Caitlin Stojkovic and Clarie West will also strengthen the back line."
COACH EVANS ON THE MIDFIELD
"This is perhaps the area on the field where we feature the least amount of depth, but it is by no means short on talent.
"The midfield is yet another combination of experience and youth for our club. The coaching staff expects Allyson (Kucera), Ashley (Farrand) and Tiana (Dickson) to earn three of the starting spots in the midfield.
"Allyson has been solid throughout her career and she has the ability to lead the team from the middle of the field. Ashley was perhaps our most valuable freshman a year ago and Tiana is expected to make an immediate impact.
"This group will initiate the attack and transfer the ball from the defense to the front line. Its strength will be on set pieces as three of the expected starters stand at 5-8 or taller and have tremendous ability in the air.
"Other midfielders expected to compete for starting spots are Colleen Keester and Kate Leyendecker."
COACH EVANS ON THE FORWARDS
"Without a doubt, this will be the most exciting group to watch. The potential of the forwards and their scoring ability is the biggest reason the coaching staff is so optimistic about the 2007 season.
"The depth on the front line, which should feature three starting forwards, is a luxury that OU has never had in the past. We will have multiple scoring threats as this could be the position with the most depth.
"The forwards are led by three experienced returners in Shana (All), Tenesha (Duncan) and Audri (Habibi). Shana proved to be one of our best clutch performers last season and Audri came on late to make big contributions on offense. If Tenesha stays healthy, she can be a very potent scorer.
"We also have a group of very talented newcomers who will see time in our offensive scheme, led by Whitney (Palmer), Lauren (Alkek) and Kelsey (Allison).
"All three were standouts in high school and Palmer is the highlight in the group after she scored 10 goals in the last six games of our spring season."
COACH EVANS ON THE GOALKEEPERS
"We are incredibly strong at this position. Heading into the season, this looks to be the most talented position with two keepers who both should see time in 2007.
"For the first time since 2004, when Jenny (Nichols) was a freshman and Catherine Wade was a senior, we have two starting goalkeepers on our roster who give us a chance to win every game.
"Jenny is a tremendous goalie and when she is playing up to her ability, she is the best at her position in the Big 12. If she stays consistent, she will be the starter throughout the season.
"Tara (MacDonald) is maturing quickly and after a strong spring season, she is talented enough to fight for a starting spot.
"In addition to having several talented goalies, we added Amanda Martin to our coaching staff in the offseason. The best thing about having Amanda as an assistant is that she was and still is a tremendous keeper. She plays and coaches with a great level of intensity and can show our goalies how to improve themselves first hand. She also has terrific footwork, which, along with her intensity, is what we need to work on most with our goalkeepers."