By Blake Zimmerman
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
With a 63-12-8 record since 2008, including 36-3 at home, those adjectives seem to be right on the mark. OSU seniors Krista Lopez, Sarah Brown, Elizabeth DeLozier, Colleen Dougherty, Melinda Mercado, Annika Niemeier and Kyndall Treadwell were, as juniors, a huge part of last year’s record-breaking squad. The Cowgirls won the Big 12 Tournament, hosted a regional and made the program’s first appearance in the Elite 8. Yet, if you ask the players, they believe they still have work to do.
“We are looking to break records again,” said Lopez, a senior forward who holds the school record for goals in a game with four. “We need to focus on other schools, rather than our own. Comparing ourselves to our past isn’t as legitimate as comparing ourselves to other schools. If we do that, we can be even more successful.”
Coach Colin Carmichael supports that kind of thinking and believes it speaks volumes about where this senior class has brought the program.
“It helps give us credibility,” Carmichael said. “Everybody has known for the past 10 years that we have a good team, but now people look at our program as elite. That helps us recruit, helps us get on TV and helps with scheduling. The national name that we have now helps us in many different ways.”
When a program breaks records for success, it usually means that the team, especially its nucleus, has prepared in a different fashion than prior teams. Lopez agreed that the recipe has been different.
“We are dedicated,” Lopez said. “Our class is really the first to stay and put in work over the summer. We stayed because we want to keep up our skills and fitness. Four or five of the seniors actually played in summer leagues in order to keep up with soccer. We’ve been dedicated to maintaining our fitness and skills throughout the offseason.”
It’s no secret that when a core group of players are together for an extended period of time, they have a tendency to be successful. Three straight Big 12 conference regular season or tournament titles works is evidence of this group’s success.
"I think it comes with great responsibility,” senior midfielder/defender DeLozier said. “Freshman year through now, we’ve gotten to perform and when we’ve gotten on the field we’ve had to step up and play. With the large class that we have, it creates a real sense of leadership. It’s humbling knowing that the younger girls look up to us, just like we did when we were freshmen. It’s just a credit to the program.”
Although this senior class is achieving great things, the true test for a program is replacing key players and “reloading” instead of “rebuilding.” Elite programs are able to do this on a yearly basis. Has Cowgirl soccer reached the point of being a national power?
“I think we have,” said Dougherty, a senior midfielder/defender. “If we didn’t win the Big 12 this year, we would be disappointed as a group. We’re at the point that when we watch the NCAA tournament selection, we’re looking to get seeded, not just get in. It has become something that we expect. We’ve worked so hard, especially as a senior class, that I think we deserve that status.”
When asked to offer a favorite memory from this senior class, the answers varied.
“Up to this point, it has to be going to the Elite 8,” Carmichael said. “Winning that game at home against Duke in front of 2,000 people, and then getting to play against Notre Dame in the Elite 8 was a fantastic achievement. Just looking out at the crowd and seeing standing room only made it such an amazing night. Getting to that point was a great achievement for this group.”
Lopez, Dougherty and DeLozier all chose Big 12 Tournament victories. Lopez chose last year’s bedlam victory over OU in the Big 12 Championship Game.
“Bedlam is always intense,” Lopez said. “But it went to penalty kicks and it was just great to win the Big 12 championship again.”
DeLozier and Dougherty both chose the 2009 Big 12 Championship Game against Texas A&M, which gave them the automatic bid they needed to enter the NCAA Tournament.
“It was really a must-win situation,” DeLozier said. “We had to get the automatic bid to get in to the NCAA tournament. We might have gotten in without it, but that win made it a sure thing.”
The 2011 Cowgirls started 10-0-0 start for only the third time in school history. The Cowgirls have achieved the No. 2 ranking in this week’s NSCAA/Continental Tire poll, their highest ranking in school history. It looks like the 2011 seniors aren’t finished breaking records.