By Chris Walsh
STILLWATER, Okla. —
The Oklahoma State women’s soccer team has enjoyed ample amounts of success in the past couple years, but season after season, hopes of a NCAA Championship fall just short.
With 2008 Big 12 regular season and 2009 Big 12 tournament championships under their belt, the Cowgirls will be looking for a third title in as many years, then more.
“We have a chance, but it’s a real tough conference. There’s a lot of good teams,” coach Colin Carmichael said after Monday morning’s practice. “We certainly have a shot, but a couple losses and we could be eighth or ninth.”
Despite their two Big 12 titles, OSU has lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament for four straight seasons.
Last season the Cowgirls finished with a 15-7-2 record and went into the postseason on the wave of a 10-game winning streak.
After knocking off Texas A&M for the Big 12 crown, OSU won its first postseason game on penalty kicks over Southern California. Then came California-Santa Barbara.
For the third time, the Cowgirls were knocked out of the postseason on penalty kicks and saw their season.
This year the Cowgirls return with experience across the board and a defense they feel can compete with the nation’s best.
Eight starters are back and, according to Carmichael, 16-17 players with a lot of minutes under their belts also return to the pitch.
“It’s an experienced squad, but we do have some fresh faces we believe can contribute,” Carmichael said. “Every year the make-up of the team changes slightly. I don’t think it’s a drastically different look, but the leaders are new.”
Leading the way will be one of the nation’s premier goalkeepers in A.D. Franch. As the first player in OSU history to be named to the USA under-20 national team, the future is only looking brighter for the sophomore.
Last season Franch won a slew of honors, including All-Big 12 and freshman All-American. She set a school record with 11 shutouts to go with her Big 12-leading save percentage of .843.
Helping her keep teams off the board will be what looks to be the strength of OSU’s 4-4-2 line-up, the defenders.
Last season the Cowgirls tied a school record with a Big 12-leading 16 goals allowed and set a record with 14 shutouts.
All-Big 12 first team junior Melinda Mercado leads the way along with senior Allyson Leggett, junior Colleen Dougherty and sophomore Carson Michalowski.
On offense the Cowgirls will be looking to senior Annika Niemeier and a slew of others to keep the scoreboards working. Last year Niemeier led the team with 11 goals and scored the team’s lone goal against Oral Roberts in an exhibition match Saturday.
“I think we have a pretty good team,” Niemeier said. “We have really good freshmen and a really good group coming back. We have a really good defensive group, as good as we’ve been in the last couple years.”
Along with the senior in the midfield are juniors Elizabeth DeLozier and Sarah Brown and a slew of youngsters looking to make their mark at OSU.
At forward, senior Katie Richardson and junior Kyndall Treadwell will be looking to provide some spark, along with sophomore Megan Marchesano, who had the assist to Niemeier with a corner against ORU.
“I think defensively we’re going to be pretty solid — the back four is pretty much intact from last year,” Carmichael said. “We’ve got a great keeper and if we can continue to work on finishing our chances, we’ll be all right.”
The regular season kicks off Friday when the Cowgirls host Bedlam rival Oklahoma in a non-conference tilt at 7 p.m. The rivalry looks to be as heated as ever as the OSU seniors try to keep their perfect record against the Sooners intact.
“We haven’t lost to Oklahoma since I’ve been here, and I’d like to keep it that way,” Niemeier said.
Editor's note: Oklahoma State also won a Big 12 tournament championship in 2003. The story has been corrected.