Aug. 11, 2009
NORMAN, Okla. -- The 2009 Sooner soccer team began team practices last week and will play its only exhibition game of the preseason on Friday, Aug. 14 at 7 p.m. against Arkansas at the OU Soccer Complex.
In preparation for the 2009 season, SoonerSports.com will provide fans with a two-part season preview.
The first part in the series can be found below and the second and final installment will be released on Wednesday, Aug. 12.
Click here to read a Q&A session with Coach Nelson as she talks about the returning starters in 2009, the successful spring season, and this year's freshmen.
Stay tuned on Thursday for a preview of Friday's exhibition game and a recap of the first two weeks of preseason practice.
2009 SEASON PREVIEW - PART I
OU finished 3-15-1 overall last season and ninth in the Big 12 Conference with a 2-7-1 record. The Sooners return 10 letterwinners who started at least 10 games, including leading-goal scorer Whitney Palmer, from the 2008 season.
Joining the returners is a talented recruiting class highlighted by Dria Hampton (MF) and Kelsey Devonshire (GK), who both participated in the U.S. Soccer Region III U-19 camp over the summer.
Another year of experience for the returners and a talented recruiting class provides a balance in attributes and will help create more depth across the field for the Sooners in 2009.
“I think the biggest improvement is that we’ve added important depth at each position,” said OU Head Coach Nicole Nelson. “This is more balanced team. We have a lot of returning experience and we’ve added players who understand and have a background in competing in the style we play. “
The season kicks off on Friday, August 21, at home against Missouri State. In preparation for the season opener in Norman, OU will host Arkansas on Aug. 14 in the only exhibition game on the schedule.
The 19-game slate is highlighted by 11 contests at the Sooners’ home and one of the premier collegiate soccer facilities in the nation, John Crain Field at the OU Soccer Complex.
Oklahoma will play eight teams that advanced to last year’s NCAA Tournament and it will host five of those contests in Norman, including USC (Sweet 16), Texas (second round), Texas A&M (Elite 8), Kansas (second round) and Missouri (second round). In addition, OU will travel to LSU (first round), Colorado (first round) and Oklahoma State (second round).
A more experienced and talented defense in 2009, led by junior Ashley Bolden, looks to improve upon last season, while the offense is coming off a strong spring campaign. While rolling to a 6-0 record, OU outscored the opposition 11-3 in the offseason. That span produced significant improvements after a fall season that saw the Sooners tally 14 goals, led by Palmer’s eight scores.
“We are coming off a very successful spring season, both developmentally and from a result standpoint, so we are really looking forward to the 2009 season,” said Nelson. “We are more dynamic in our attack as we have several players who can score and create opportunities. “
Joining Palmer on the attack will be several returning players and newcomers, including senior Ashley Farrand, juniors Sage Coralli and Tiana Dickson, sophomores Jordan White and Kelsey Kraft, and freshmen Dria Hampton and Jessica Johnson.
“We are looking forward to integrating the incoming players with a large core group who played a lot of minutes last year,” added Nelson. “We face a challenging schedule with a lot of NCAA Tournament experience from 2008. It should help us continue to improve as a team and work toward our goal of competing for championships.”
The season opener is the first of four home games to open the 2009 slate, which also features Sam Houston State, Oral Roberts and Tulsa. In addition to USC, the Sooners welcome Lamar to Norman in non-conference action.
In preparation for the competitive action in the Big 12 Conference, which sent six teams to last year’s NCAA Tournament, OU travels to Middle Tennessee, Vanderbilt and LSU in non-conference play.
The conference slate kicks off on Friday, Sept. 25 at home against Texas and the Sooners will complete the weekend on Sept. 27 in Norman against Texas A&M.
Following a challenging start to Big 12 play, OU begins the longest road stretch of the year, four games, at Colorado and Texas Tech the following weekend. Trips to Iowa State and Nebraska conclude the road stint.
Three of the final four games of the season will feature the Sooners at home against Kansas, Missouri and Baylor. The lone road contest in that span is the Bedlam Series, presented by The Oklahoman and Oklahoma Farm Bureau Insurance, on Friday, Oct. 23 in Stillwater, Okla.
The Big 12 Championship (Nov. 4-8) will once again be held in San Antonio, Texas, at the Blossom Soccer Stadium. The top eight teams will compete in a single-elimination tournament to determine the conference’s champion and the automatic bid to the 2009 NCAA Tournament.