Clarksville, Ark.-First-year University of the Ozarks head women's soccer coach Justin Neese inherits a team that returns five players from a year ago and welcomes nine more in what is expected to be a year to begin a tradition.
"I’m excited to have the opportunity to be here and be in this kind of position," stated Neese, who was an assistant coach at University of Dallas prior to Ozarks. "It’s a new start for the program. We are basically turning over a new leaf. I’ve told all the players our theme is to build a tradition. Our expectations include laying the foundation for future success. But I think we can be competitive and I think it’s very doable to match last year’s conference win total. We want to make the playoffs." ????? Among the top returner’s Neese inherits are sophomore midfielder Jessalyn Halsted and junior midfielder Kate Schoenhals, each of whom earned All-Conference last season, and junior forward Ember Smith. ????? "The midfield is very good," stated Neese. "Jessalyn is a very creative player. She sees things really well. Her biggest attributes will be creating opportunities within the center midfield. She can be a threat from twenty yards out, too. Kate is athletic, tall and strong. She should win a lot of balls for us. I see a lot of attacking coming from those two players. The outside midfielders will be players that can cause trouble down the flank and hopefully be able to keep opposing defenses off balance." ????? Halsted, who finished second in the league in assists with 12, scored eight goals and could be the go-to player this season. Newcomer Amanda Bohon, a transfer from Northwestern Oklahoma State University, is also expected to make an impact in the midfield. ????? "Amanda is creative and has a good eye for passes," stated Neese. ????? Additional goal scoring could come from the versatile Smith, who scored six goals and collected three assists last season. ????? "Ember’s main strength will be her ability to organize our defense and our midfield," stated Neese. "She has a very strong leadership personality. She will give us some guidance in the back." ?????? Senior defender Becky Obermueller and sophomore forward Olivia Fisher will add experience and talent to the squad. ????? "I think in the back we will be strong with Becky and Ember," stated Neese. "Becky has experience and provides leadership. Olivia is athletic and competitive." ????? Ozarks will have to replace its all-time leading goal scorer in Lindy Swatzell. ????? "We will have a different kind of forward than what Lindy was," stated Neese. "They have to be our first outlet. They will be making opportunities. They will be athletic, too." ????? The goalkeeping duties will rest upon freshman Jessica Falls. ????? "Jessica is a good goalkeeper and is athletic," stated Neese. "She can see the game pretty well." ????? Neese believes his team will be more defensive oriented than its opponents and feels his team’s biggest strength will be their work effort. ????? "As a team I don’t think we will be as offensively minded as some of the other teams we play," stated Neese. "We will be very defensive oriented. We will take advantage of the openings we have. Our team strength will be our effort. My aim is for the girls to work harder and longer than any of our opponents. I think we will be as organized as our best opponent. Everything will hopefully fall into place after that." ????? The newcomers will make an immediate impact to the squad, according to Neese. ????? "I think the new players will have a tremendous impact," stated Neese. "I’m really happy with them. I think we will be able to build a lot from their example. They bring new eyes to the program and add a new energy and enthusiasm." ????? Neese looks to build upon a 2004 season that saw the Lady Eagles finish with a 5-14-0 overall record and a 5-8-0 conference mark. ????? Success, according to Neese, cannot be measured in wins and losses this season. ????? "I don’t think we can look at success as just winning and losing," stated Neese. "I think we have to ask ourselves whether or not we are accomplishing our goals in a specific match or in a specific season. And if we are, I think we are successful. If we are taking the baby steps to build a program then I think we are successful." ????? The Lady Eagles open the season with a home match against LSU-Shreveport on September 3.