Soccer season is just around the corner and throughout the week, SoonerSports.com will preview the upcoming season for the Oklahoma Sooners. The complete preview will be broken up into three sections, starting with a season outlook and a preview of the Sooners' forwards. In the following days, the midfield, defense and 2004 schedule will be broken down.
In 2003, Oklahoma soccer reached a goal it has been striving for since the program’s inception in 1995. The year produced the school’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament and the squad finished 8-7-5. Now entering the ninth year of Oklahoma soccer, the Sooners are looking to make a trip to the NCAA postseason a regular occurrence.
”Last year’s squad reached an important benchmark,” said Oklahoma head coach Randy Evans. “Making the NCAA Tournament was a goal for us and now it becomes a responsibility. Last year’s team set the bar for what determines a successful season.”
Leadership was one of the big question marks entering last season. In 2004, that does not appear to be a problem as 14 upperclassmen (seven seniors and seven juniors) dominate the roster. Nine starters return and will be joined by a talented group of freshmen fighting for a Big 12 Championship and a return trip to the NCAA Tournament. Seniors Catherine Wade and Samantha Faulkner and junior Lauren MacIver will share the responsibility of captaining a determined Oklahoma squad.
“I have been so impressed with the attitude and work rate of this team since the 2003 postseason concluded,” commented Evans. “I think our attitude is that the (NCAA) tournament game was just the beginning of things to come.
“This team, on paper, will probably be the most talented that I have fielded at OU. It should be an exciting season when you combine the incoming freshmen with an already talented group from last season.”
Evans embarks upon his sixth year at the helm of the OU soccer program and the 2004 edition returns ample experience on both sides of the ball. As usual, his team will use defense as its strength to achieve success on the field. In addition, Evans welcomes one of the most talented group of freshmen he has recruited in his tenure.
“If anything, this year’s team seems even more determined and focused than last year's,” Evans said. “We will certainly miss the graduating class. They played a huge role in the development of this program.
“Despite the loss of those seniors, we are very excited about welcoming this new class that will help make up our current team. This freshmen class should make us more athletic, more talented and give us the ability to be more versatile in our play.”
Last year the Sooners struggled on offense and ranked eighth in the conference in total goals scored. With the school’s all-time leading goal and point producer Logan Womack lost to graduation, the frontline for OU will have to establish itself as a scoring threat for a full 90 minutes and beyond each time it takes the field. On numerous occasions in 2003, the Sooners squandered scoring opportunities, especially in close games. In contests decided by one goal or less, the Sooners totaled four losses and four ties compared to their five victories.
This year’s squad, with more experience under its belt, has a chance to improve upon last season’s success. Just like the midfield, the potential lineup on offense presents a lot of options. The combination of returning starters and fresh talent should provide some much needed goal scoring in 2004.
Becky Nelson (pictured above) and Savannah Scott return as the statistical leaders up front for OU. Nelson led the team in goals last season with six and was second on the team in points with 14. Scott, in her first collegiate season, tallied four goals (two game winners) and four assists.
“This is the most depth we have had up front and I can not remember having as many choices as we do this year,” Evans said. “We return a lot of talent in Becky Nelson, Savannah Scott, Michelle Enos, Kristin Vesely and Kady Kelly. In addition, we have added Tenesha Duncan, Shana All and Colleen Keester. The challenge will be finding the most effective combination from this very talented bunch.”
The Sooners reported back to Norman on Monday, Aug. 9, and immediately begin practice in preparation for the season opener on Friday, Aug. 27, in Norman at John Crain Field. The game is slated for a 7:30 p.m. start against Saint Louis, marking the first meeting between the schools.