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Soccer Notebook: New Stadium’s Impact on Recruiting, Goal Scorers and Position Battle

What does Colin Carmichael have in common with Mike Gundy? A fierce position battle on his hands.

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STILLWATER — Soccer season is coming up quick.

The Cowgirls have an exhibition game Friday at home against Tulsa before starting their season in Beaumont, Texas, with games against Lamar and UTSA on Aug. 22 and Aug. 25. Oklahoma State coach Colin Carmichael met with the media Friday to discuss how his team has looked through its early practices.

Stadium’s Impact on Recruiting to Help in the Long Term

Neal Patterson Stadium had its inaugural season in 2018, and it’s impressive to say the least.

The $20 million project had some delays along the way, but the Cowgirls are all moved in to start the year. It’s without a doubt a major step up from where the Cowgirls were before and that should help in recruiting, but OSU coach Colin Carmichael said its best recruiting benefits are still to come.

“In our sport and a lot of sports now, we recruit so far ahead,” Carmichael said. “The international kids that we recruited a couple years ago, it made an impact to show them the video and the plans. Gabriella (Coleman), a transfer from Mississippi State, she came over on a visit and obviously we got to show her this.”

Carmichael didn’t graduate a ton of players from last season’s squad, so in turn he didn’t need to fill too many scholarships this year. And with kids being recruited at as young as they are, Carmichael said in future years, the new stadium should pay off in bigger ways.

“It hasn’t been a huge impact on recruiting yet,” Carmichael said. “As we starting really getting into ’21, ’22, ’23 grad years, those are the kids that will be taking their visits, and we’ll be taking them into the completed stadium. And they’ll watch a game in the crowd with the Orange Outlaws and all that stuff. That’s when I think you’ll see it. As we hit maybe 2021, but certainly 2022 and 2023 recruiting classes, I would like to think that’s when we’ll start to see a huge impact in our recruiting.”

Filling a Goal-Scoring Void

Although the Cowgirls didn’t graduate a lot of people for last season’s team, they did lose two long-time goal scorers in Marlo Zoller and Haley Woodard.

Zoller and Woodard each netted six goals in 2018, tying atop the Cowgirls’ stat sheet. Those 12 goals were about 43 percent of all of OSU’s goals last season, meaning the Cowgirls will need to look elsewhere for offensive production in 2019.

Carmichael said it’ll likely be a committee approach to scoring this year, leaning on players such as Jaci Jones, Julia Lenhardt and Grace Yochum. He also mentioned newcomers Gabriella Coleman, who transferred in from Mississippi State, and freshman Olyvia Dowell. Defender Kim Rodriguez in also a threat on set pieces. She scored four goals last year.

The trio of Jones, Lenhardt and Yochum combined for nine goals in 2019. The Cowgirls also brought in former Choctaw standout Rebekah George. George, a true freshman, scored 89 goals in her high school career, including a state-record 39 as a senior.

“Rebekah’s done well,” Carmichael said. “She’s going to have to adjust physically to the speed and the pace of the game, but she’s a very, very good soccer player who has the ability to score.”

Carmichael Compares His Goalkeeper Competition to a QB Battle

While Mike Gundy is dealing with a Spencer Sanders vs. Dru Brown position battle, Colin Carmichael has one with Dani Greenlee and Hannah Warner.

Greenlee, a junior from Rockwall, Texas, and Warner, a sophomore out of Owasso, battled to be the Cowgirls’ starting goalkeeper all last season with no true winner emerging. The pair would often split halves of games with Greenlee starting 10 games but playing in 17 and Warner starting eight games while playing in 16.

Carmichael said the battle has a fresh start this season, as the two prepare for Round 2.

“I’ve compared it in the past to the quarterback in football,” Carmichael said. “I think most coaches would agree, you’d rather have a starter and a backup. However, if you’ve got two evenly match players in the position, you try to utilize both until such time as one of them separates.

“That’s what we want, to be quite honest. We’re looking for separation. I would love to have what you would consider a starter and a backup. If we get to that point, wonderful. We’ll manage that with the players, and they’re aware of that and they understand that. But at the same time, if they’re both deserving of getting minutes, then we’re going to play them.”

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