Aug. 3, 2000
NORMAN, Okla. - As Randy Evans begins his second season at the helm of the Oklahoma soccer program, he continues to look forward to the future. And, for him, the key is going to be the team's new field.
"The new facility is the biggest thing," said Evans. "It's great to finally be on campus. It will give us a sense of pride and it will definitely help recruiting."
But the field isn't the only factor Evans believes could play a major role in how the 2000 season develops.
"The injury situation is still going to be apparent this season," said the Sooners' second-year coach. "A number of key players were out for large stretches at a time last year. Unfortunately, we're going into this season with some players still nursing injuries."
Like many first-year coaches, Randy Evans took some lumps in his inaugural season at University of Oklahoma as his team finished the 1999 season with a 4-13-1 record . However, injuries, a brutal schedule, and a handful of close losses contributed greatly to last year's mark.
"Despite the record, I was actually pleased with the way the team progressed. When I came in last year, I changed everything and they took well to those changes, especially at the end of the season."
That was evident as the Sooners registered shutout victories in their last two matches.
"Even though we had eight one-goal losses, I thought about the level of competition we were playing against and I said, `we're going toe-to-toe with some of the best teams in the country,'" reasoned Evans.
A more favorable schedule should also aid the Sooners this season.
"It is a great and competitive schedule," said Evans. "In my opinion, it's one of the nation's best, but this year a lot of the games are split home and away which can work to our favor."
As for his first full season of recruiting, Evans brought in five players with one thing in mind.
"One of the areas I wanted to concentrate on this year in recruiting was speed."
And speed is what some of the incoming freshman possess. Jessica Talton, from Broken Arrow, is a two-time state 400-meter champion and Norman product Logan Womack is a 100 and 200-meter state champion. She has been ranked as high as fifth nationally in the event. Evans also pointed out that the Big 12 Conference is on the rise.
"I believe this conference, in soccer, has gotten to the point where it's at least one of the top three to four conferences in the country," he said. "It can be one of the nation's best year in and year out.
"We want to continue where we left off last year," said Evans. "We had a great stretch in the spring, going 5-3-1 in exhibition play, and we want to keep that momentum going into this season. The question is can we score."
The goalkeeper position will definitely be a strength this season. Both keepers, senior Ayn Toppin and sophomore Jana Cunningham, return. Each split time in the net last season and, at end of the year, the two combined to shut out the final two opponents. In fact, the Sooners did not allow goal in the final 251:36 of the season. Toppin's and Cunningham's goals-against-averages were the best and third-best in Sooner history, respectively. Toppin, a Naples, Fla., native, posted a school-record 1.63 GAA while Cunningham, from Tulsa, followed with a 1.81 GAA.
"It's going to be a great battle again," said Evans. "Ayn had a great spring and I really expect her to step up, being a senior this year. Although Jana is recovering from injury, I still expect a battle.
"My philosophy is having a No. 1 and a No. 2 keeper, but since it was so difficult last season to pick between the two, I had them split time. This year, I look for one to move up to the No. 1 spot."
Another area of strength for OU is defense as three starters return for the 2000 season. Christen Secrest, a junior from Norman, is back after becoming the lone Sooner to earn all-conference honors last season. Secrest, who started every match, was a second-team All-Big 12 honoree.
"With the number of injuries we sustained and our lack of scoring, the defense did a great job last year," said Evans.
Two-year starter Ashlee Richmond is gone but Emily Land and Jamie Farmer, both sophomores from Dallas, Texas, are back. Each stepped into starting roles as freshmen and both are counted on to continue progressing. Another sophomore, Brittany Davis, could also see time. Davis, from Norman, saw action in seven matches last season while battling injury.
Teri Marcum, after sitting out last season, is also eligible to play. The sophomore from Tulsa played for Oklahoma State in 1998. During that season, Marcum had a goal and an assist while starting 18 games for the Cowgirls.
OU returns five players who saw significant playing time last year at midfield, but no one is guaranteed a starting spot heading into preseason practice.
"A lot of changes to the midfield position will take place this season," said Evans. "We're bringing in three recruits (Ashley Lacey from Yukon, Heidi Martinson from Tulsa, and Talton) to go along with the returning players so it's going to be an interesting position to say the least. As of now, it's up for grabs."
Senior Mary Morse, a Plano, Texas, native, returns for her final season. Morse has started every game since her arrival on campus. Her streak, now at 51, should continue this season. Another Sooner who returns for her final season is Bridgette Smith. The senior from Grapevine, Texas, has been a consistent starter in each of her first three seasons.
Jennifer Enos, a sophomore from Arlington, Texas, is back after a successful freshman campaign in which she played 18 games (started 12) and registered a game-winning goal. Megan Olsen, from Federal Way, Wash., returns after placing fourth on the team in scoring last year with four points. The junior compiled a goal and two assists on the season.
"Megan made big progress in the spring season and I'm looking forward to seeing how she performs this year," commented Evans.
Brianne Strothers, a sophomore from Auburn, Wash., who started 12 games last year, is also back. Sophomore Kate Rusley, from Tulsa, could provide depth to the midfield.
The return of Jessica Volcansek, a junior who redshirted last season, should also bolster the midfield position. The Plano, Texas, product sat out last season due to a foot injury. Volcansek was a starter her first two seasons.
"Despite Jessica's injury, I have confidence she is ready to go and will be thrown into mix," said Evans.
"This position is the biggest question mark going into the season," said Evans.
Despite the play of Jonette Coquat, injuries and an overall lack of scoring plagued the front line last year.
Coquat, a junior from Carrollton, Texas, led Oklahoma in scoring (14 points) for the second straight season. Her six goals and two assists were also team highs. She now has 33 points, 13 goals, and seven assists on her career, all good for second place on OU's all-time list.
"I expect Jonette to have another great year for us," says Evans about the third-year scoring threat.
Shannon Wing is coming off a successful freshman campaign. However, the sophomore from Broken Arrow will miss some time at the beginning of this season due to surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her knee last spring. Wing tied for second on the team in points (seven) and goals (three) while starting every match. Her numbers were identical to those of Norman sophomore Heather Martinelli. Martinelli, though, missed five games due to a back injury.
"For Heather, a lot, of course, is going to depend on her health. She's very athletic and gives us consistent minutes," said the head coach.
The injuries could put pressure on highly touted freshman Womack. The speedster is expected to push for a starting position this fall.