Lady Eagles expect to be ‘180 degrees different’ from last season

Addie Ryan (left) and Chelsie Flagg (right) are two of the three seniors on the OC roster this season.
Addie Ryan (left) and Chelsie Flagg (right) are two of the three seniors on the OC roster this season.

OKLAHOMA CITY (Sept. 3, 2013) – Through a preseason that has included a good number of 6 a.m. practice sessions, Oklahoma Christian coach Randall Robison has come away convinced of one thing: This OC women’s soccer team is eager for change.

Coming off a 3-13 season in which almost everything that could go wrong did, that’s not surprising, but Robison believes the amount of change will surprise many people, because the Lady Eagles reported to camp already prepared.

Just how much the Lady Eagles have improved will be shown on the field, starting on Thursday, when they visit cross-Edmond rival Central Oklahoma in the season opener.

“The attitude, the work ethic, everything is just 180 degrees different,” Robison said. “All the credit goes to the girls for how they were prepared. I think that’s the biggest difference leading into it, because it’s obvious that they worked hard in the spring and that they worked hard in the summer on their own. Now they can reap the benefits of coming in fit. That allows us to work them harder … and expect more out of them. It’s simply going to be a better product because of the start.

“We challenged the girls in the spring that they will decide what the identity of this team is – will it continue or will they be able to change things? Their work ethic showed that they want to change things. They don’t want recent results to be their legacy.”

All over the field, Robison said, the Lady Eagles will be different – attacking offensively, being better prepared defensively and dictating the pace and style of the game to other teams.

Any good soccer team starts with defense and OC has a pair of proven goalkeepers in sophomores Lindsey Williams and Anna Walker. As they did last season, Walker and Williams have battled for the starting job during the preseason.

“We’ve told both of them that the job is there for your taking,” Robison said. “It’s pretty apparent that both kids worked hard in the summer. We’ll see who’s worked harder and who’s prepared more. But both girls are coming in better than they were last year.”

The Lady Eagles’ defensive back line will look much different than in past years. Senior Addie Ryan will switch from an attacking role to focus on playing a central defender position alongside returning starter Hannah Lorentz. But that’s not the only change, as Areli Bermudez Delgado – a transfer from NCAA Division I Monmouth who once played on Mexico’s under-17 national team – has been “brilliant” at right back during the preseason, Robison said.

Freshman Courtney Nixon is the leading candidate to start at left back, and another returning starter, Katie Wertz, will figure into the defensive rotation once she returns from injury, hopefully by the start of Heartland Conference play.

Two returnees, Maicee Brinkman and Samantha Kuneman, along with newcomers Devon Palluth and Amanda Cooper, also should see playing time along the defensive back line.

The Lady Eagles will have the luxury of mixing several talented returning midfielders with newcomers who have impressive credentials. Estefania Bermudez Delgado (Areli’s twin sister, who also played at Monmouth) will be a goal-scoring threat from an attacking midfield position. Freshman Sophia Brazil comes from a prep program that won two straight state titles and has a nose for the goal.

They’ll join a number of returnees – Rachel Bates, Mackenzii Bieke, Carley Cave, Chelsie Flagg, Gigi Gonzalez and Aubri Wiley among them – in the midfield rotation, while freshman Bailey Barron also should figure into the mix.

Senior Somer Helms, a three-year starter for the Lady Eagles on defense, will move to forward this season in an attempt to take advantage of her sprinter’s speed. Helms also runs for OC’s track team and has been a part of relay teams that have set four school records. Freshman Kelsey Taylor, another high-scoring prep phenom, also should see playing time up front.

Freshman Robin Walters, a late arrival to the squad, also has shown potential as a forward and there will be times on the field when any of the midfielders could morph into a forward, Robison said.

“We’ve got more depth all across the field, when you factor in the kids who can play a handful of spots,” Robison said. “We’ve got more depth than we’ve had in years.”

OC’s schedule, while challenging as always, won’t feature a long stretch of away games to open the season as in 2012. The Lady Eagles will have road games at local rivals Central Oklahoma and Southern Nazarene and four nonconference home dates before opening up Heartland Conference play at St. Edward’s (Texas) on Oct. 5.

Two major changes from last year’s schedule will be that conference teams will play each other only once, not twice, and that league games will be played on Saturdays and Mondays.