CHICKASHA – Strong upperclassmen and talented newcomers could lead to a record-breaking year out of the Drover women’s soccer team as the 2014 campaign unfolds.
“This is the best talent we’ve had in the 16 years of the program,” Hampton said. “I want us to win a Sooner Athletic Conference title and to go to national tournament to compete for a national championship.”
The 2014 team has nine upperclassmen and 14 returners who provide a backbone and leadership for the nine freshmen, many of whom are expected to start immediately.
The Drovers were picked to finish fifth out of 10 teams in the Sooner Athletic Conference Preseason Coaches Poll. Hampton said he thought fifth was a fair position based on last year’s performance.
In 2013, the Drovers won five of their last eight games and found their way into the postseason after struggling to get a rhythm early in the season. USAO finished the year with a 6-11 (5-5) record.
From the 2013 squad, USAO lost two players who saw significant time on the field and the team’s back up goalkeeper, but the Drovers’ big scorers — Jade Ovendale and Linda Addo — are back for their senior season with the Drovers.
Together Ovendale and Addo scored 29 of the team’s 38 goals for the season and were also the team’s biggest assisters on the year.
On the defensive end, USAO returns its leading goalkeeper, Addie Lee. After three years, Lee is second in school history in career shutouts with 13. Also, she is third in career goals against average (1.50) and wins (21).
Anchoring the back line for another year are juniors Ryah Vyse and Jentry Yates.
“Our returners are going to be huge for us,” Hampton said. “And they look good in preseason.”
Despite how good returners are, Hampton says no returner is safe in their starting position.
“I tell them to compete, compete to get the starting 11 kit,” Hampton said. “If you want to get a kit, you better be better than the new kids coming in.”
And the talent coming in is strong. Hampton said he is excited for the recruiting class, which he described as one of the best in the program’s history.
Three freshmen newcomers in particular that he pointed out as expected to start immediately are forward Jordan Cleveland, midfielder Lauren Parker and defender Kate Williams. All three are Oklahoma athletes who were named All-District in high school.
Hampton brought in a total of nine freshmen and one junior. Additionally, junior Shay Nash, from Northern Oklahoma College, is expected on the field this year after a preseason injury in 2013.
“The women have done well, to be fair. They have bought into it,” Hampton said. “A lot of players have changed even from last year in their workout mentality.”
In 16 years coaching USAO, Hampton has led the women’s team to an overall record of 157-125-18. The program’s highlight was a 2011 SAC Championship and first national tournament appearance that same year.
Before the season starts, fans will get an opportunity to see the team in action at home at 3 p.m. Aug. 21 when the Drovers take on NCAA Division II East Central in an exhibition match.
The Drovers open up the 2014 season on the road at Bacone College on Aug. 26. The Drovers have two other away games before their home opener against Our Lady of the Lake at 1 p.m. Sept. 5. All USAO home games are free and open to the public. Full schedule
Fans who can’t make it out to the Drovers home games this year can watch them live for free online here.