From RSU Sports Information
CLAREMORE, Okla. – The Rogers State women’s soccer team looks to build upon the program’s success from the 2011 season and make a run at both a Sooner Athletic Conference title and a bid to the NAIA Tournament in 2012. The Hillcats closed out last season with a 10-7-3 overall record, and went 6-4-1 in SAC action.
Head Coach Derek Larkin and his staff are integrating seven new faces with their talented returning veterans. The Hillcats return 17 players from the squad that advanced to the SAC semifinals in 2011, losing just four starters.
“Anytime you have as many returners as we do your expectations go up,” Larkin said. “We have a lot of good solid players coming back and with the addition of some of the new talent coming in it should be a great year. We have high expectations. We were semifinalist in the conference last year and with the players coming back and the new players great things can happen.”
The Hillcats have compiled 10 or more wins in a season in each of the last six years and are looking to take the next step in 2012: a bid to the national tournament.
“Make no bones about it; we want to be at the national tournament,” Larkin said. “That is where the bar is set. We have had a team win the conference championship, been to the regional finals and we have been just a game or two away, so the national tournament is what we are trying to achieve.”
With one season under her belt, sophomore Jordan Beasley will be looked upon by the Hillcat coaching staff to have a big season. The Lafayette, La. native started in all 20 games for the Hillcats as a freshman in 2011. She scored a team-high eight goals, notched two assists and was named second team All-Sooner Athletic Conference.
“We hope to see Jordan have a breakout season,” Larkin said. “She had a solid freshman year, scoring several goals for us and she is a very talented player. We hope that with a little bit of maturity she will be able to produce a little more for us.”
Sophomore Tara Garrett made a big impact on the field last season but moving to the forward position will be a little different look for her than a year ago. The team’s defensive player of the year might be making a move to the front line. Veteran Lauren Hager also returns to the lineup for her senior campaign.
“With the addition of some of some newcomers who can fill the void on the back line, we are hoping to move Tara Garrett to the front line,” Larkin said. “I think she can be an added spark to our offense. Redshirt freshman Rachel Coen could come in and contribute along with Lauren Hager who has scored many goals for us over the last three years. We have a lot of girls we can go to this year to score for us.”
RSU’s midfield will provide the team with a diverse set of talents that will make them assets all over the field. The youthful group features one senior and should be a strength for years to come. Blair Thomas started all 20 games in the midfield for the Hillcats as a true freshman in 2011. Junior Melissa Subu started in 13 of the team’s 20 games last year and finished second in goals scored, netting seven on the season. Veronica Subu is the lone senior in the midfield, having started in all 20 games in her first season on the Hill in 2011.
“Blair Thomas, Melissa Subu, and Veronica Subu will all return in the midfield but we have several newcomers that will contribute as well,” Larkin said. “Freshman Carly Johnson is a very good player and could contribute immediately along with Raquel Chavez who redshirted last season after transferring from Drury.”
Johnson was a four-year varsity letter-winner at Bixby High School. As a senior she was the team captain and named to the 6A All-State team. Chavez came to RSU after one season at Drury University (Mo.). In high school she helped Bishop Kelly earn three state titles.
Returning a number of talented and experienced defensive players from last year should prove to be beneficial for the Hillcats.
“We have several upper classman that we expect big things from on our back line this season,” Larkin said. “Jessica Turner, Lauren LaForce and Cierra Lohaus are all versed in our system. Jianna Piela is coming back from a great freshman year where she started every game. These players with the addition of ORU transfer Mikella Schexnider and Santiago Community College transfer Haley Wenlock are upperclassmen that played at a high level and should be very solid on the back line.”
A transfer from Oral Roberts (Okla.), Schexnider had an impressive prep career at Charles Page High School in Sand Springs, Okla. As a Sandite she was a three-time all-district performer while earning all-conference and all-state accolades her senior year.
Possibly the most difficult position to replace will be in the net. Coach Larkin must find someone to replace two-year starter and Sooner Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Chelsea McMullin.
“There is no doubt the loss of Chelsea McMullin is a hurdle that we must overcome but we are extremely confident in the players that we have,” Larkin said. “Jordan Harris is from Claremore and played at UMKC as a freshman. She played several games last season and is going to be someone that we really look to lead this team and there is no doubt she can, she is an outstanding goalkeeper. Freshman Rebekah Meeks will also be in the mix to help Jordan out at the goalkeeper position.”
Picked to finish fifth in the Sooner Athletic Conference by the league’s coaches, Larkin has put together a challenging schedule for the Hillcats in 2012.
“To make the national tournament you need to play a really good nonconference schedule and we have really beefed up ours this year,” Larkin said. “We are playing NCAA Division I opponent ORU along with Oklahoma Wesleyan and Ottawa who are both receiving vote. Those games lead to our first two conference games against Oklahoma City and USAO who are both in the Top 25. Our first seven or eight games are going to be true battles for us.”
The Hillcats will open the season at home on August 24th against Missouri Baptist before traveling just down the road to take on NCAA Division I opponent Oral Roberts on August 26.
RSU open’s the conference slate at home against powerhouse Oklahoma City University who is ranked No. 11 in the NAIA Preseason Coaches Top 25 Poll. RSU will follow up that game with a trip to Chickasha, Okla.to take on defending SAC Tournament Champions USAO who is ranked No. 24 in the country.
Larkin’s sixth season on the Hill brings along some welcome changes to the venue his team calls home. During the off season, Soldier Field was converted to artificial turf and a 9,000 square-foot fieldhouse for the soccer and cross country teams was built in the north end zone of Soldier Field, adjacent to Blue Starr Drive. The facility features spacious locker rooms for the men’s and women’s soccer teams as well as the men’s and women’s cross country teams. Coaches’ offices, an athletic training room, and storage areas for athletics and intramurals is located in the central area of the building. The facility also includes permanent concessions and restrooms for patrons and a paved concourse area with sightlines to the field.
“Our soccer facilities are some of the best in the state,” Larkin said. “We have great academic and athletic standards at RSU which attracts great players and in turn attracts great crowds. I am really looking forward to the game day environment at Soldier Field this season.”
Sara Williams is the Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations at Rogers State University.