Clarksville, Ark.-Heading into the 2012 season, Head Women?s Soccer Coach Bryan Drotar is content with the talent level and improved depth of his team.
Ozarks returns 11 lettermen, including a solid sophomore class to go along with an impressive freshmen crop. Six starters are back for Drotar’s team, which finished 3-16-0 overall in 2011.
“We have a solid sophomore and freshmen class,” said Drotar. “When you add those two classes together with what we already had in place, I think we are in good shape. Our depth makes us a stronger team. We are youthful, but more balanced.”
While last year’s freshmen class took their lumps, it is a group that is seasoned in the competitive American Southwest Conference.
“Having that freshmen class compete in the ASC will benefit us this season,” said Drotar. “They will be more prepared. They know what to expect and we can depend on them. We are on the right track. The future here is bright. This puts us in a position to be better over the next few years.”
With just two more additional conference wins last season, Ozarks could have finished among the ASC’s top-10. Instead Ozarks lost its final seven matches and settled in a four-way tie for thirteenth. A pair of goalkeepers on Ozarks’ roster could turn the team’s fortunes and improve the team’s goal differential. Mary Eoff started the first five matches of the 2011 season before suffering a season-ending injury. Codie Freeman suffered a season-ending injury before even entering her first collegiate match. Now, Drotar believes this is one of the team’s strengths.
“The goalkeeper position is very positive,” said Drotar. “Mary and Codie are both healthy. I think whoever wins the goalkeeper position will be solid. And having Morgan O’Neil back in the field is almost like getting a new player. When we had to pull Morgan off the field last year it gave us less flexibility.”
Eoff posted a 3.56 goals against average and recorded 46 saves. Playing in front of Ozarks’ goalkeeper will be another one of the team’s strengths. The defensive line will be headlined by All-Conference selection Monica Seiler.
“Our defensive line and midfield line are very solid this year,” said Drotar. “I think we have some choices this year that we haven’t had since I’ve been here. We could have a variety of different combinations out there.”
Seiler started in 17 matches and spearheaded the team’s defensive efforts.
“Monica is confident and she is poised for another good year,” said Drotar. “She is a tough, physical defender. She is fast and also gives us the ability to attack out of the back.”
Seiler will likely be joined in the back by sophomores Brooke Tralmer and Scotti-Lynn Burnside.
“Brooke had a solid year,” said Drotar. “She is ready as a leader in the back line with Monica. Scotti-Lynn has changed as a player and could play back there. We could fill in with freshmen Haley Gilliam, Hannah Carter or Nena Evans. The center midfielders include Morgan and Lauren Gilby. Kanisha Eckart will give them a run for their money. Morgan is a leader and the captain of the team. I think physically she is ready to have a good year.”
The Lady Eagles return only two players who scored goals last season. This is a cause for concern, but Drotar isn’t overly worried. MaKenna Piha and Gilby each recorded one goal during their freshmen campaign.
“We will have to learn to score goals by committee,” said Drotar. “I don’t think it will be just one single player that is scoring a lot of goals, but rather several players. I think Kristen Callahan, MaKenna and Lauren could score some goals.”
Piha tied for the team-lead in assists with three while Gilby had an assist and five shots on goal.
“I think Lauren is ready to step and have a big year,” said Drotar. “Last year she filled in at a variety of spots. She is a feisty player and a smart player. I do think she will have a really big year either as a forward or center midfielder.”
Drotar feels his freshmen class will add plenty of skills on the pitch.
“Several of our freshmen have very good technical skills,” he said. “We also have three freshmen that have very good speed and that is something that will make us more dynamic.”
Even with the team’s youthfulness, Drotar believes his squad can be more competitive than in past years, despite the rigors of the ASC.
“This could be a year where we could be right in the mix,” he said. “The gap has narrowed. We are a big step ahead of where we were last year. We will have to see which of our girls step up.”
Ozarks will open the season August 31 against Central Baptist College in Clarksville.