The Oklahoma Christian University men’s soccer team understands they will have to work much harder to repeat the success they found last year. Posting a 12-5-2 record and a trip to the second round of the NAIA National Tournament, the Eagles know they may have caught some teams off guard.
“It’s going to be a lot harder this year. Teams are going to be coming after us expecting a lot more from us; it just means we’re going to have to work a lot harder,” goalkeeper Bryan Cochrum said.
Even with a target on their back, the Eagles are still determined to reach their lofty goals this season.
“I would like to see us back at the national tournament and I think we have the potential to do it,” head coach David Scott said. “With some of the players we’ve lost, it’s going to be a lot of work. With last year being an unknown and then coming into this year being a marked team, it’s going to be a lot harder for us. Hopefully we’ll be a good challenge for the conference title and make another run to nationals.”
Scott earned Sooner Athletic Conference Coach of the Year honors in 2006 after improving the Eagle’s 2005 win total by six games.
Last season’s success offers challenges never faced for this years season.
“Last year when we came in we were kind of a no name team, but since we had made it to the quarter finals and nationals everybody’s got it out for us this year,” senior Jason Frei said. “We are starting to quickly realize that teams are going to play their best games against us, and if we want to have as good of a season as we did last year, we’re going to have to step it up a lot more.”
The loss of several players, including their top two scorers from last year in Brady Nikkel and Matt Clark, has caused the Eagle’s to look for new players to fill their shoes.
“We have a lot of guys returning and a lot of experience so it’s just a matter of adding depth to the team. We have a few players that can step in and get some experience this year and improve us as we move forward,” Scott said.
At midfield and defender, Oklahoma Christian boasts depth. Adam Barnes, received All-American honors last year, and midfielders Cristian Fernandes and Phillip Hoover earned All-SAC honors.
After allowing a record low 26 goals last year, the majority of the changes have come up front for the Eagle’s.
“Tyler Brady, one of our forwards this year, will be moving into a more prominent role since we lost all three of our forwards from last season,” Scott said. “Ryan Frampton is moving in from defense into midfield, so we expect him to have a little offensive output this season.
Although there are new faces and players adapting to different positions, the Eagles strategy remains the same.
“If everything comes together and we pick up our work rate and work a lot harder than we’ve been working, stop acting like everything is going to be given to us because of where we were last year and find a way to score goals, then we’ll have a very good chance to make it back to nationals,” senior Kurk Zielger said.
With all surrounding circumstances, this year’s season should be an interesting one to witness.
“Coming in, I have pretty high expectations of the team seeing as how last year we made it to the national tournament,” Ziegler said. “We lost a few players who were key, but we have a lot of good players returning. But still in the conference and the nation we’re not getting very much respect. We need to be playing with a chip on our shoulders this year.”
The Eagles will take on No. 3 William Jewell (Mo.) University tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. at Oklahoma Christian.