CHICKASHA – With an unexpected start for both the women’s and men’s soccer programs this year, early-season adjustments led to improved play, solid records and conference honors for both teams.
The women’s soccer team fought injuries from day one and started off rough, but Alexis Vizarelis, assistant for both men and women, said the players’ extra effort and positive outlook helped the team improve.
“I’ve got to really give credit to the ladies,” he said. “They worked hard throughout the season; we clearly got better.”
The Drovers won five of their last seven games and earned a spot in the Sooner Athletic Conference tournament.
“Overall, I’ve got a lot of respect for our ladies and how hard they worked. It’s very easy when you have a start like we had to go hide and blame other people, but we all took it upon ourselves; we all said, ‘we have to get better,’ from the coaching staff down to the players.”
The Drover men had another strong season in 2013, earning a sixth Sooner Athletic Conference Championship and a fifth straight trip to the NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship Opening Round.
“It was kind of similar in a way to the women’s season; we started off slow,” Vizarelis said. “That’s a credit to the lads, just getting together and realizing that they had to work harder, correct a few things, and they really came on strong and had a fantastic year.”
Vizarelis and his fellow coaches agree that the senior class will be missed as not just quality players but as the type of players who want to put their mark on the program.
“You can’t replace the players we lost. They are fantastic individuals,” Vizarelis said. “All you try to do is almost make sure that when they come back here, they are excited to watch the new players play and the program still moving forward.”
With both seasons wrapped up, the USAO coaches will spend the off-season recruiting to fill in the spots vacated by graduating seniors and preparing for next year’s season.