2008 RED RAIDER SOCCER
After returning to the Big 12 Championship for the first time since 1999, the Texas Tech soccer team looks to continue its rise up the conference standings under second-year head coach Tom Stone.
Like years past, the Red Raiders will still be a relatively young team in 2008 with 15 returning players, only three of whom are seniors, to go along with 11 newcomers.
The name to watch for the Red Raiders is still Brittney Harrison, however, as the junior returns after moving to defender last season. Already a prov- en offensive threat, Harrison connected on three goals and two assists in 2007, while also keeping a close eye on the conference’s top forwards on a daily basis.
Because of the Red Raiders’ improved depth on the back-line, Harrison is almost a “wild card” for Stone, simply because he can use her in many roles, a scorer or on the back line.
“Brittney is coming off a terrific season in which she earned All-Big 12 hon- ors playing center back for the first time,” Stone said. “With a full season under her belt in the back, we will again look to Brittney to lead us from the back and still be a threat to get forward when she can. Brittney’s speed is an obvious asset and she can score goals for us when she moves forward or on set pieces.”
The decision on where to place Harrison may result from the play of junior Zhaleh Rezaie and sophomore transfer Leanne Mihelich, who joins the Red Raiders after a successful freshman year at the University of Arkan- sas-Little Rock. Mihelich led UALR last season with nine goals and 22 points as the Trojans won a school record 11 matches last season.
After a slower start than many expected, Rezaie became Tech’s top of- fensive player late last season scoring a team-high six goals, including two in the Red Raiders’ overtime loss to Missouri in the Big 12 Championship quarterfinals. Overall, Tech was 4-1 when Rezaie had a goal last season.
“Leanne is a technical player with great pace who has already proven she can score goals at the college level,” said Stone. “Leanne will pair up nicely with the rest of our forward line and give us the vertical threat that we have been looking for.”
“Zhaleh finished the 2007 season strong with several big goals in our big- gest games. Our hope is that she can regain her form from the outset of the 2008 season and continue to be the scoring threat she has proven she can be.”
Not returning, however, are Priscilla Esquivel and Kim Cypert, who both completed eligibility last fall. Esquivel finished a stellar four-year career among the school’s top 10 for goals and points, while playing for a total of three different head coaches during her tenure.
Joining the program in 2008 will be a total of 10 freshmen – Madison Terry, Hope Hanson, Dawn Ward, Casey McCall, Erin Villareal, Maggie Fete, Lauren Yelinek, Kacy Hardie, Lexi Castellano and Kendyl Mygatt.
Among the group, Castellano and Yelinek were named to a respective NSCAA All-Region team, while Mygatt was among Soccer Buzz Maga- zine’s top 150 recruits for 2008.
“We have gotten faster and deeper in the back, faster and deeper up front, and we have a very nice group of midfielders who can hold the ball in pos- session and bring others into the game with quality passes,” Stone said. “My favorite part of the freshman year is seeing which players emerge from the pack to really stake a claim on a position and demonstrate the total commitment necessary to be a quality collegiate soccer player.”
The Red Raiders open the 2008 season Aug. 22, against Lamar in the first match at Tech’s newly-built soccer facility, the John Walker Soccer Complex.
“Our goals for this season are to be better in the non-conference schedule and to build on the foun- dation for success from 2007 so that we can remain competitive in the Big 12 Conference. If we can achieve both of those objectives, then we will have put together a good season from start to finish.”
Head Coach Tom Stone
Tech opens conference play the following week against Colorado (Aug. 29), which is the earliest Big 12 opener since falling to Nebraska on Aug. 27, in 1999.
The Red Raiders travel to Texas-San Antonio and Murfreesboro, Tenn. for two matches at Middle Tennessee State and Alabama A&M before return- ing home for three consecutive non-conference home matches.
Tech resumes Big 12 play on Sept. 26, in Stillwater, Okla., against Okla- homa State during a stretch where the Red Raiders play three of four con- ference matches on the road. The Red Raiders close Big 12 play Oct. 24, at home against perennial national power Texas A&M. The regular-season finale is Oct. 26, against TCU.
“When you play in the Big 12, you have a very challenging schedule built in from the start,” said Stone. “We think we have added an additional nine games that will not only be exciting for our team and fans but also help prepare us for the conference schedule ahead.”
With the amount of talent returning combined with a solid class of new- comers, Stone and the Red Raiders aim to prove that 2007 was no one-hit wonder. Seeing things already coming together, Stone feels the Texas Tech soccer program is starting to take stride.
”Our goals for this season are to be better in the non-conference sched- ule and to build on the foundation for success from 2007 so that we can remain competitive in the Big 12 Conference,” said Stone. “If we can achieve both of those objectives, then we will have put together a good season from start to finish. I like our chances if we are playing well towards the end of the year.”