Alva Review-Courier -

Pieces falling into place for Liddell and company


August 18, 2017

Following a tough 2016 campaign that saw his club finish with a record of 0-17 (0-12 GAC), Rangers head women's soccer coach Craig Liddell admitted that last season was an eye-opening one and one that he and his team both know is well in the past.

The Rangers will enter the 2017 season ranked seventh in the Great American Conference Pre-Season Coaches Poll. Southwestern Oklahoma State will enter the season as the pre-season favorite, coming in just one vote ahead of Harding .

An undefeated spring season and a fresh new crop of talented players will set the 2017 stage for a successful one as the program is steam rolling forward after an off-season of improvement. That undefeated spring season saw the Rangers allow just two goals throughout the season, a model for what can happen when the team meshes together like coach Liddell expects them to this fall.

"Those games were really huge in terms of belief," coach Liddell said, "We knew we weren't that far away in terms of results and getting something to swing our way."

The 14 returning lettermen will welcome in 12 new Rangers to the program that will provide much-needed depth that hasn't been available to the club the past few seasons. Of those 12 newcomers, six of them will join the team with experience at the collegiate level already under their belt.

"The competition piece will be there this year as we have a bit more depth at positions and that will drive players forward," coach Liddell said, "With a little bit more depth, talent, and people staying uninjured we're in a spot that is very exciting."

That success in the spring season began during an off-season program that coach Liddell pointed out as visibly positive for all members of the program. A quantitated approach to their work-outs allowed the players to visually see the improved numbers they were posting, adding to the budding confidence that was catching steam throughout the off-season.

As the Rangers take to the field for their fall camp, coach Liddell has highlighted a few areas of the game that will certainly need to be addressed if the Rangers hope to carry the positive momentum they have built over the off-season into victories on the field. A more consistent team attack and a tougher back line of defense will be areas of emphasis as the Rangers prepare for their first matches of the season.

"Going into the spring we worked on handling the ball better, keeping purposeful possession, and creating more team opportunities, which started with building those relationships and understanding the movement off of one another," coach Liddell said.

That team attack figures to run primarily through the tandem of sophomore Yazmin Gomez and redshirt-junior Karla Lopez. Gomez led the squad in both goals (3) and shots (37) last season while appearing in just 14 contests due to injuries, leading to an All-GAC Honorable Mention Selection. Lopez, an electric playmaking option from the forward position, will join the club after redshirting last season and figures to be a solid compliment to Gomez.

Gomez and Lopez will have a multitude of faces to create scoring chances with as redshirt-junior Kim Bell and newcomer Jazlynn Martinez figure to offer a change of pace that will keep opposing defenses on their heels when the Rangers attack.

That assortment of options will be a common theme throughout the midfield as well, as the implementation of several new pieces to the team's style of play will allow the midfield more freedom to create scoring opportunities and sure up their defensive presence. Redshirt senior Erica Hostetter, who coach Liddell mentioned really moved into a leadership role that was much needed last season, will return to the pitch this season for her final ride as a Ranger. She will be joined by sophomores Bailey Jarvis and Hollie Pankake, who both earned valuable playing time a year ago as highly regarded true freshman. Junior Kendra Wallace also figures to provide valuable playing time throughout the season after she worked her way onto the field a season ago.

Newcomers Brittany Cirnigliaro and Calvonis Prentice will vie for time at the midfield position as well, as both have shown potential to provide the Rangers with a greater offensive presence at the position. Cirnigliaro and Calvonis both put up impressive offensive numbers prior to joining the Rangers and figure to be important cogs in the team's newfound offensive chemistry along with another newcomer in Audrey Salas, who's athleticism will require teams to be aware of her position on the field at all times.

A defense that will need to replace key graduating seniors Cydni Phelps and goalkeeper Briana Legaspi will attempt to combat a lack of experience with a hard-nosed grit that will make any goal a tough goal to come by for opposing teams. Sophomore Tiana Young-Mauchly will return after a year plagued with injuries to join forces with junior Clarissa Hinojo to spearhead the Rangers defense that will welcome the addition of multiple new faces.

The Rangers will be well tested when Great American Conference play kicks off on Sep. 19 at Southwestern Oklahoma State as they will take on five quality non-conference foes that will be valuable learning opportunities for the squad. The first of those matches kicks off on the road at Rogers State on Aug. 31, with the first home match of the season set for Sep. 7 at 6 p.m. at the Alva Rec Complex against Washburn University.

"Last year other than maybe one game that we felt like we were blown out by on the scoreboard we felt like every other match we were not that far away from being in the game," coach Liddell said, "We've revamped our spirits and we have a nice recipe to have a heck of a season."


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