UCO Soccer Geared to Kick Off 2017 Season
Emily Precure, 24, takes the ball down the field during a 2016 soccer game at UCO. (Provided/ Vista Archives)
The beginning of the women’s soccer season starts September 1, and with the new year comes a fresh slate for UCO after falling in the second round of the National Tournament last season.
The Lady Bronchos took the field for camp in early August, and head coach Mike Cook wasn’t taking former performances into account.
“Training camp starts with a clean slate,” Cook said. “We’ll see who steps up.”
This year’s roster will consist of a mixture between veteran players and newcomers. Returning 14 upperclassmen, UCO enters the season with plenty of experience. Yet, there’s plenty of young players ready to get their careers off on the right track.
“We have a solid core of returning players,” Cook said. “Then we have some good incoming freshman to push the returners.”
Part of that core is the duo forwards Katie Killion and Mikayla Lowery. Leading the team in scoring a year ago, Killion will look to improve upon her 12 goals last season.
“They’ve emerged as leaders for us on and off the field,” Cook said.
Entering the season Cook hopes these veterans can “set a good example” and show the new faces how to work the right way.
“Trying to find that leadership on the team is very important,” Cook said.
The job of protecting the net for the Bronchos features two proven goalkeepers in senior Elle Stover and junior Ally Salls.
Stover started 15 games in net as a sophomore in 2015, leading the team in saves (63). Salls returns from starting 20 games last year for UCO. She recorded four shut outs and 76 saves as a sophomore.
“What you did or didn’t do last year isn’t important to us, it’s what you do when you come to training camp” Cook said.
Whoever is in net for the Lady Bronchos, the team and their coach know where they want to be when the season ends.
“Every year our goal is to win our conference,” Cook said.
A goal UCO will have their work cut out for, the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association has been one of the tougher conferences in the nation as of late.
The Bronchos finished runner-up in last year’s conference tournament final behind Central Missouri University. Heading into the new season Cook wants the team to become “mentally tougher.”
“We’ve been fairly young the last couple of years,” Cook said. Moving forward, UCO will look to its experienced leaders to step up after going 5-6 on the road last year.
Being a tougher team every week is what the Bronchos believe will help them get past whoever they face. In doing so, Cook hopes to bring more consistency to his team.
“We were really good in spots last year, then we were very average,” Cook said.
The 2017 season kicks off against Angelo State before UCO begins conference regular season play against conference rival Northeastern State University on Tom Thompson Field.