Clarksville, Ark.-A record-breaking season and an appearance in American Southwest Conference Tournament Championship Game have the Eagles flying high going into the 2001-2002 season.
After finishing with a school record 15 wins a year ago, the Eagles are prepared to make a run at the conference championship. Undoubtedly, the keys are in place for the Eagles to have a successful year. Ozarks returns a solid group of returning players, including 8 seniors, and an impressive incoming freshmen class. "I don’t think the team is complacent after having a successful year last season," said head coach Dave De Hart. "As a whole the guys are ready. Our goal is to be the ASC East Champions and try to win a bid in the NCAA tourney. These are difficult goals to accomplish, but they are attainable. There is a lot of work to do and other teams will be gunning for us." With the Eagles tasting the sweetness of success last year, the squad is hungry for more. Last November in the ASC post-season tournament, the Eagles came within one win of earning a berth into in the NCAA Regional Tournament. "I was disappointed we didn’t win the championship game. But I was so proud of the guys for making that game possible. I was disappointed in that moment, but certainly happy about the season we had," said De Hart, who is entering his third year at Ozarks. The Eagles, who were 15-7-0 last year, led the conference in shots per game with a 22.35 average, but were fifth in the league in goals per game. "We need to improve on scoring goals and our accuracy. We also need to be less individualistic. This year our team tactical understanding will improve. We will be as strong offensively this year as we were last year. But I would like our team to handle certain game situations better. We need to improve on our free kicks and when we are in close games," said De Hart. Leading the offensive attack are forwards Marcos Gonzalez and Ricky Herrera. Gonzalez, one of eight starters returning, owns nearly every Eagles’ career record and finished with a team high 25 points last year. Herrera was the ASC Freshman of the Year last season after leading the team in goals with 11. While this tandem may be one strength of the team, the Eagles will be well balanced. "Marcos and Ricky will be tough for our opponents to handle, but our 8 seniors will give us good experience and we brought in the best freshman class that has ever been here. Tactically, we have a well-balanced attack. And we are experienced defensively." Most of that experience will come from seniors Daniel Sigala, Phil Kaiser, Armando Vergara and from key returnees Will Masterson, Aaron Coats, Michael Coffey and Zack Boatwright, all of which are expected to play big roles on this year’s team. Midfielders Mike Guernica and Daniel Faires are also likely to see significant playing time. The biggest concern for the squad is who will pan out as a goalkeeper. "This is a big question mark for us. It’s not so much the lack of quality of keepers we have, but rather who will step up and be the starter. All four are quality keepers." De Hart believes his players gained more than just wins last season. "I’m mostly proud of the change that has occurred with my players. They have had a positive mental change regarding their pride in the program, their pride as a player and their pride academically and athletically. They are more confident now." Ozarks’ season begins on September 1st in a home game against Bartlesville Wesleyan. The match will start at 4 p.m.