First Sooner Season a Learning Experience

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma
JUNE 16, 1999
In January 1996, the University of Oklahoma made women's soccer the schools 20th sport. Three months later, Bettina Fletcher became OU's first head coach. In the months that followed, two assistants were hired, a schedule was set, equipment was purchased, a playing field was picked and a team was formed.

The inaugural Sooner squad consisted of two scholarship players (senior Laura Purser and freshman Natalie Hixson), former OU club players and several walk-ons.

"In the beginning I really didn't know what to expect," Fletcher said. "I was hired so late after the signing day for high school players that I didn't even know how many people would be on the team."

Much of preseason practice was spent building a cohesive unit and creating a fitness base that would allow the fledgling team to compete on the Division-I level. It didnt take long for the Sooners to learn what it takes to win in the Big 12 and on the national scene as they faced Nebebraska in the seasons first game. The Cornhuskers, a squad that advanced to the final eight in the NCAA Tournament last season, blanked OU 8-0.

"I think that first game was a wake-up call for this team. For all but one player (Laura Purser), that game was the first Division-I competition the team had experienced."

The opener was followed by a trip to Creighton, and a 4-0 loss. Then on, Sept. 6, the Sooners played their first home game against Regis University. In front of 1,321 cheering fans, the Sooners scored the first goal in team history. My Ta cashed in on a loose ball in front of the net, just 7:06 into the game for the teams first goal and first lead of the season. The lead was short-lived, however, as Regis got the equalizing goal 13 minutes later. Regis won, 4-2, but OU and its fans were pleased with the teams effort throughout the contest. That game was followed by a 2-0 shutout loss to North Texas and a 1-0 heart-breaker to Iowa State in an evenly played contest.

The Sooners next bright spot came in a loss, interestingly enough, when the 8th- ranked Texas A&M Aggies came to town for OUs only other home contest. Before another good crowd (538 on a Wednesday afternoon), the Sooners held the high-octane Aggies to just two goals in each half for a 4-0 A&M victory.

"I really saw a lot of heart displayed in that game," Fletcher said. "I knew that some teams were bunkering their defense against A&M to keep the score down. The team really came out fired up, though, and played well. Texas A&M is a quality team and Im proud of how we came out and fought."

On the weekend of Nov. 3, the Sooners traveled to Louisiana for games against LSU and McNeese State. OU turned in one of its top performances of the year against the Tigers. With the game scoreless into the 88th minute of play, and with both teams owning shots off the crossbar, Sooner defender Allison Hunt was called for a foul against an LSU player in the penalty box. LSU forward Jackie Cooper, one of the countrys leading goal scorers last year, did not miss her opportunity on the resulting penalty kick. On the ensuing kick-off, LSU struck for another goal at the final gun to make the outcome a deceiving 2-0 Tiger win.

Down to the final game of the year, OU tried for an elusive first victory against McNeese State. The Sooners led 1-0 after Sheri Whatley, making her first appearance at forward, scored on a free kick 12 minutes into the game. McNeese State came right back with a pair of goals to make it a 2-1 halftime score. Whatley struck again off another direct kick, hammering the ball into the lower left corner for the equalizing goal at the 51-minute mark. Then, 18 minutes later, OU got the game-winning goal when Kayce Casner broke free on a one-on-one situation with the goalkeeper and was true with her shot.

The Oklahoma season may have been a disappointing one record-wise, but it was an important first step in the process of building the Sooner program.

"I knew last year would be tough on this team as far as wins and losses," Fletcher said. "I didnt judge the success of that season with wins and losses, but with the continual improvement of the team. I saw that improvement, especially defensively. This team will continue to improve and the players that were here during last season will provide the wisdom of Division-I soccer to all the newcomers. I think in the years to come we will look back on last year and really be able to appreciate winning that much more. Now that this team has experienced a win it will be that much hungrier to win more."

1996 Oklahoma Women's Soccer Stats

Final Statistics

Individual Statistics
NameGPGSSOGGoalsAssistsTotal Points
Jennifer Bennett200000
Kayce Casner141410306
Erin Cudd300000
Whitney Elkins111000
Rachelle Faurot1283011
Keri Ferguson1172102
Mindy Field111410306
Lee Leon Guerrero820000
Natalie Hixson14146000
Allison Hunt14143000
Carina Littleton400000
Nicole Murray13135000
Laura Purser14140000
Liz Ross14146000
Jamie Runyan100000
Katherine Smith14145124
My Ta1221102
Jamie Taylor14147102
Sheri Whatley141412204
Opp. Totals142235034134

NameGPGSMin.SavesGoals AllowedShotsSave Pct.GAAW-L-T
Laura Purser1414121511348216.7453.551-13
Sheri Whatley1045527.7144.000-0

at NebraskaL0-8
at DruryL1-4
at UNTL0-2
at Iowa St.L0-1
vs. Minn-DuluthL1-3
at Oklahoma St.L1-5
at Northeastern St.L1-5
Texas A&ML0-4
at Portland St.L0-2
at OregonL0-4
at LSUL0-2
at McNeese St.W3-2



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