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OSU Soccer Ushers in New Era With 4-1 Bedlam Win



STILLWATER — With 1:20 left, Haley Woodard stood on top of the Oklahoma State bench screaming out commands to keep pushing and find another goal. The Cowgirls were already up two at home against Oklahoma.

That didn’t matter. The Sooners’ goalkeeper came up to midfield to take a free kick, and OSU cleared easily. Claire Gantzer ripped a ball down the left touchline that found Taylor Olson with nobody except the lowly keeper in front of her. She took two dribbles and knocked it on to her right, past the goalie. One more touch and a pass to the empty net made it 4-1, where it would finish.

Just 19 seconds after Woodard yelled for more, the Cowgirls delivered. She didn’t have to beg. OSU would have won anyway, but it signified a changing of the guard in Cowgirl soccer.

I have covered this team for four years. I was there when Allie Stephenson, who was on the sidelines Friday, sent an overtime laser past the OU keeper in 2014, which was the last Bedlam victory in Stillwater until this 4-1 result.

I was also there in practice when coach Colin Carmichael pleaded for more with what seemed to be a group of individuals that happened to be wearing the same uniform. Both happened in the same culture, the same season, the same era.

The Cowgirls’ fourth goal ushered in a new one.

“They’re great,” Carmichael said. “I don’t gauge it necessarily on results or how we play because we have good days and bad days. I look at it how they work, and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had to call this group out and question their desire or their willingness to work.”

With the Cowgirls’ second Bedlam win this season, their record has improved to 8-1-2, but most important, it emphasized the spirit infused in this group. Winning obviously helps, and after two decades in the program, Carmichael has been around teams that have won a lot, like in 2011 when they took 27 out of 33.

As the clock reached zeros, Woodard grabbed a water bottle. When she did, about 10 others followed. Jumping and screaming, they sprayed the water as high as they could and hugged and ran onto the field. Woodard said she was “taking after” one of her best friends Ramon Richards.

That just wouldn’t have happened when I was a freshman.

For Woodard, a junior from Norman, she was there at the tail end of the “me” culture Carmichael has referenced to Pistols Firing. Now in with the “we” mentality, she said there is just nothing better.

“I could go to lunch with anyone on the team and have a full-on conversation with them,” Woodard said. “Tell them my secrets, trust them with my life.”

As for Olson, she is only a freshman, but she shares the team lead with Woodard in goals having bagged five now. She said she doesn’t care about any kind of scoring record or individual feat. In fact, she said she didn’t even know. A reporter had to tell her postgame.

Another freshman who scored Friday, Camy Huddleston, said coming into a culture and season like this in her first year after watching three seasons of .500 play has been “a big relief.”

“This is just the best environment you can be in right now,” Huddleston said. “Everyone’s just so happy. Everyone is excited to go to practice. Everyone is excited to play soccer.

“It’s just an amazing feeling.”

Woodard didn’t have to scream and yell for a fourth goal late in the second half of an already-decided game. Especially for Bedlam and with the Sooners’ defense playing so high up the field, the Cowgirls were going to send it no matter the score. That was clear as soon as Gantzer started after the loose ball.

And that’s something that never would have happened just a few years ago. The game would have finished 3-1, and each player would have been on her way. Instead, Woodard was crashing Carmichael’s postgame interview and calling the senior goalie “grandma.” Other players were running by the freshmen as they gave their interviews and giving them a nudge.

And for the first time in four seasons, everyone, not just the starters or the goal scorers, seemed happy and in the moment. That said a lot more than anyone did after the win or even what the scoreboard read as the droves of fans left the bleachers.

“Win, lose or draw, I’m enjoying this season a whole lot with them,” said Carmichael.

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