Aug. 16, 2010
NORMAN, Okla. -- The 2010 soccer season gets underway this week as the Oklahoma Sooners head to Oklahoma State for a non-conference installment of the Bedlam Series, presented by Oklahoma Farm Bureau and The Oklahoman. The match on Friday, Aug. 20 will get underway at 7 p.m. at the Cowgirl Soccer Complex in Stillwater, Okla.
OU is coming off a 6-1 exhibition win over visting Northern Colorado last Friday. The Sooners led 1-0 at the half after a Dria Hampton goal, but sophomore transfer Caitlin Mooney opened up the game with a hat trick in the final 45 minutes. Senior Whitney Palmer and freshman Zoe Dickson also scored in the victory.
Below is the first of a two-part season preview featured on SoonerSports.com. Part two on Tuesday will provide a closer look at each position.
Sooners have high expectations for 2010 campaign
The Oklahoma Sooners enter year number three in the current regime and the coaching staff, led by head coach Nicole Nelson, has plenty of reasons to smile as the campaign gets underway.
While the Sooners return 10 starters and 16 letterwinners, they also signed the largest recruiting class in program history, filled with talent ready to contribute immediately. The additions of freshman Zoe Dickson, sophomore Caitlin Mooney and freshman Carrie Whigham gives OU six players with national team experience on the 2010 roster. Sophomore Dria Hampton and senior Whitney Palmer (U.S.) and Katharine Nutman (England) complete the list.
The experience starts with three seniors that have started together each of the past three seasons. Palmer, the only Sooner to lead a team in scoring outright in three straight seasons, is the offensive highlight of the group at the forward position. Lauren Alkek on defense and Tiana Dickson in the defensive midfield will help lead the Sooners' backline that shut out six teams in 2009 with sophomore goalkeeper Kelsey Devonshire.
"We are very excited to have the balance we do from our freshman to senior class," said Nelson. "The newcomers are competitive and many have experience playing at a high level. The returners have done a tremendous job reaching out to this incoming class and developing a chemistry that is very good early in the year."
In 2009, OU started strong out of the gates with four straight wins and after a monumental win over Texas A&M, a program first, the Sooners stood at 6-4-1. Unfortunately, injuries suffered to Sage Coralli (ACL), Michelle Alexander (concussion) and Kelsey Kraft (ACL), took their toll late in the season and OU posted a 1-6-1 mark over the final eight games.
"Last year before the injuries, we looked pretty good and I thought we were right in the mix," added Nelson. "Ultimately, we lacked the depth needed to finish strong. We are happy to have everyone back healthy this year and have the depth necessary to keep everyone fresh on the field."
While the program has progressed on and off the field in the last two years, OU looks to take the next step in 2010 and build a championship tradition by returning to the postseason.
The Sooners last postseason appearance was in 2006, a first round loss in the Big 12 Championship. OU's only showing in the NCAA tourney came in 2003.
In 2010, the Sooners are not focused on potential records or past results, but championships.
"I try not to focus on records," said Nelson. "At the beginning of every season our goal is to be better than the year before with aspirations of winning championships, I believe this group is capable of winning a Big 12 Championship."
"I feel very good about the combination of talent, experience and chemistry with this group. This team has the potential to have a lot of success on the field, and that includes competing in the NCAA tournament."
To obtain that goal, the Sooners will battle through a 19-game slate that features nine contests at the OU Soccer Complex, one of the premier collegiate soccer facilities in the nation.
Overall, Oklahoma will play five games (four on the road) against teams that advanced to last year's NCAA Tournament, including two contests against Oklahoma State, a team that advanced to the second round. The Bedlam Series will highlight the opening weekend on Aug. 20 with the first regular season non-conference meeting between the two.
"I think the Bedlam rivalry is one of the most exciting rivalries in college sports," said Nelson. "The additional game should continue to grow the fan base for our universities and our sport. "
OU will also face USC (first round), Santa Barbara (first round) and Texas A&M (Sweet 16), all NCAA participants a year ago. In addition, OU faces five other squads that rattled off 10 or more wins a year ago.
"We feel like the opponents we face in the non-conference segment will be beneficial, not only from an RPI standpoint, but also in terms of preparing us for the always grueling conference season," said Nelson.