CHICKASHA – Two weeks before classes begin, USAO soccer players stepped foot on campus and have been focusing on fitness and tactical work in daily workouts to prepare for the big opening of the 2012 season.
“The kids have worked very hard for the last 10 or 12 days, and we’ll continue to work hard,” Head Coach Jimmy Hampton said. “The kids are excited to be here and they have a good attitude.”
Hampton said the Drover women looked good in preseason games, partially because the strong leaders who have emerged.
“We don’t have a lot of upperclassmen, but the ones we have have really assumed a lot of leadership responsibilities,” he said. “Their performance on the field is a match to what they’ve done off. Not only have they been good leaders off the field for us, but they’ve worked really hard to demonstrate to the younger girls. And I think that’s one of the reasons we looked so good.”
With just one senior on the roster, Hampton said the men are still working to create that team dynamic.
“I think we’re trying to establish an identity,” he said. “I think when you have so many young kids, it takes a bit longer.”
The Drovers start the season ranked nationally and high in the Sooner Athletic Conference. The women come in 24th in the nation and second in the SAC, while the men rank seventh in the NAIA and top the SAC preseason polls.
“I think it’s a great credit to the program. You’re going to have special years if you do it long enough … but I’m glad we’re recognized as a program that year in and year out people have respect for,” Hampton said. “I think I’d rather have a great program than have a special team every 20 years.”
The Drovers open the season on Friday against Baker College in one of the toughest games USAO will face this season. Baker women are ranked sixth nationally and the Baker men come in second in the NAIA.
“Quite a challenge for the men and women in a short time,” Hampton said. “Great programs. We’re excited to play them and we’re excited to host them.”
The women will kick off at 3 p.m. at Drover Pitch and the men will follow with a 5 p.m. start. Fall classes at USAO begin Aug. 27.
Full video (but first, a teaser about the 40th Anniversary of Athletics!):