Clarksville, Ark.-The 2003 U of O Lady Eagles soccer squad will use a combination of youthfulness and a competitive spirit to make an impact in the American Southwest Conference this season.
According to head coach Jeremey Bernard, a younger team has brought about a renewed energy that will translate into a team strength. "Our youthfulness is a major strength this season," said Bernard. "We only have three seniors on the team and we have added ten new players, including eight freshmen. While our team will be young, the girls have a lot of energy and enthusiasm. I think they are ready for a change this season. We played some tough matches in the spring and won, so we have some confidence coming into the season." Junior Lindy Swatzell, an All-East division second team pick a year ago, will again be counted on for offensive output. Swatzell finished fifth in the conference in shots (78) while leading the team in goals (8) and points (15). Swatzell has led the team in goals the past two seasons. "Lindy has been a strong player for us the past two seasons," said Bernard. "Most likely we will be starting a freshman up front with Lindy and we will look for other freshmen to generate some shots and score some goals. We have several younger players that want to make an impact and we are hoping they will be able to. Our midfield players will also be getting several shots to relieve some pressure off of Lindy." The midfield and defender positions will have experience and talent and should be a solid part of the squad. Kara Carlson, a fifth year senior and one of the conference’s top defenders, earned second team All-East division honors a year ago and is again expected to make a large defensive contribution to the team. "Our central midfield will be strong with Marrisa Andrade back, and our defense is a returning defense," said Bernard. "Becky Obermueller will anchor our defense. She did a nice job there for us in the spring and we have some experience in the back with Kara Carlson and Letty Trevino. We will have quite a bit of experience in the back, so defensively we will be strong." The Lady Eagles, who finished last season with a 3-13-2 record, lost six matches by one goal, a trend that Bernard hopes to reverse this season. "Last year we started some freshmen and they now have more experience under their belt," said Bernard. "We have more confidence to win the closer ones this season and that is one of our main goals. After playing in so many tight games last year, we are going into the season knowing we can play with the other teams in the conference." The Lady Eagles, who were picked to finish sixth in the ASC preseason coaches poll, again face an uphill battle with their schedule. The East division appears as rigorous as ever, according to Bernard. "It’s a tough schedule," said Bernard. "The East division is strong again. Our side of the league keeps getting tougher every year and our non-conference games will be challenging, too." Bernard feels it will take a group effort for the Lady Eagles to be competitive and pull out the close games this season. "I think everybody needs to step up in order for us to be successful," said Bernard. "I don’t think there is one particular position that needs to step up any more than another position. If we are going to be successful each player has to perform well. It took a while for the girls to realize how good they really were last season. I’m hoping we can carry that sort of confidence into this season and play that way throughout the rest of the year."