Photo by: Henoc Kivuye
The 2013-2014 Oklahoma Christian University men’s and women’s soccer teams began preparation for this season as far back as the fall of 2012. From spring training to scrimmages, both programs have grown and developed both on and off the field.
“It’s definitely a fresh start all the way around,” Head Women’s Soccer Coach Randall Robison said. “We are taking the attitude that this is a new day, a new season, a new team. We are putting last season completely behind us.”
Last season, the Lady Eagles finished with an overall record of 3-13-0. The team faced multiple sources of adversity last season, with newcomers and a conference change atop the list.
The returning players knew their final record and subsequent shot at a bid to the national tournament would be rooted in team unity.
“We knew that we were going to have to put aside all of our small problems and focus on this team,” sophomore defender Hannah Lorentz said. “So far we have just enjoyed each other’s company and that shows out on the field. We want to be together and we want to be a part of this team.”
Robison saw the change in attitude from the first practice in the fall.
“We knew during the middle of the Yo-Yo test, while they were still running, that they had worked hard this summer,” Robison said. “Their preparation coming into this season has been great.”
The Yo-Yo test is a body recovery test, a series of timed 20-meter sprints. The participants start on level 1 and progress to the max level, level 16, with every level’s pace quickening.
“The women’s national team also uses this test and their average is level 13, with their expectation being level 12,” Robison said. “Our girls’ expectation was level 11 and the average was just below level 13. I’m not saying we could take on the women’s national team, but our girls’ athletic level certainly does compare with theirs.”
The Oklahoma Christian men’s team is also recovering from last season’s 8-9-0 run, and is focusing on continued improvement—starting with their bond off of the field.
“Last season was tough, definitely,” sophomore forward Brandon Little Axe said. “But this year we’re working to become a force that is to be reckoned with. Our team chemistry is great, so we’re trying to use that as an advantage to lose as little games as possible.”
The men’s team faced one major injury early in their 2012 season that put an end to one midfielder’s game and struck a blow to the Eagles. Sophomore Cody Cook suffered a season-ending injury and was forced to take a medical redshirt. His senior year, Cook was named to The Oklahoman’s All-City second team list for Edmond North High School, which reached the 6A quarterfinals.
“This year Cody is back to play and he’s starting for us,” Little Axe said. “It will be nice having him back on the field. If you weren’t there for the two games he did get to play last season, then you have never seen his skills before. He’s a powerhouse and will do great things for this team.”
The women’s team was fortunate enough to avoid injuries last season. Through their 2013 preseason, and in their three scrimmages, the squad has given up zero goals to their opponents.
“Addie Ryan is just a mainstay when you want to talk about any success that this team has, along with Hannah Lorentz,” Robison said. “Those two really stabilize things for us in the backfield. Mackenzii Bieke and Rachel Bates are playing at levels that we expect of them. Our goalkeeper, Lindsey Williams, is ready to battle. But even with the names that I’ve thrown out there, it’s really tough to say that those are the only girls who are playing their hearts out. This year’s squad is really balanced overall.”
The men’s soccer team began their regular season play against Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, Okla. yesterday, while the women’s team faced off against the University of Central Oklahoma. Before the match, preseason banter seemed to add fuel to the Lady Eagles’ fire.
“We’ve heard rumors that the UCO coach has told his girls that this game will be an easy win and that we’re not a team to worry about,” Lorentz said. “What they don’t realize is that we are nothing like the team we were last year. We are the underdogs, but that’s the best position for us to be in right now.”
Squaring off against the Lady Bronchos yesterday, Lorentz seemed justified. The Lady Eagles’ defense cleared ball after ball, and at the half trailed 0-1. Coming out in the second, however, UCO heaped on the pressure. Scoring five more goals in under 15 minutes, the Lady Bronchos widened the gap, holding off Oklahoma Christian to win 6-0.
The men found more success in Bethany, Okla. Led by junior Domenico DeGrazia’s hat trick, the Eagles pulled out a 5-2 victory over Southern Nazarene, breaking a 10-game losing streak to their longtime rivals.
Coaches and players agree that the missing factor from the complete success of Oklahoma Christian’s soccer programs is the fans. During the week of freshmen orientation, Earn Your Wings’ final event is held at both teams’ opening scrimmages in an event known as “Maroon Out.”
“At our first scrimmage, we heard more chants and cheers from the student body than we had heard all last season,” Robison said. “The players really build off of that. I tell the girls all of the time, ‘If you give them something to watch, they will come watch you.’”
Proven in the scrimmages, the attitudes and work ethics of these athletes has drastically changed the team’s spirit.
“If we continue to have success this season, it’s because of the work that these players have put in this fall,” Robison said. “These athletes are changing the face of OC soccer.”