TULSA, Okla. - The future is bright is one of the bigger clichés in sports. However, the future is truly bright with the Oral Roberts women's soccer program, which finished 12-7-2 during the 2012 campaign.
Despite losing a lot of veteran leadership in seniors Lauren Parks, Allison Hall, Whitney Booth and Johanna Sheppard, the Golden Eagles have plenty to build off of following one of their best seasons in program history.
"A year ago we graduated around 85-percent of our offense, but this year we are going to return all of it," said head coach Ryan Bush. "I think that replacing Lauren Parks, Allison Hall, Whitney Booth and Johanna Sheppard, just their leadership and overall character, the legacy that they left, what they did with young players and their leadership with the tone and example they set with the young players was excellent."
"I think the amount of talent we will have returning is the most amount of returning talent we have had since I've been here. We will return a lot of offense and a lot of players of that scored a lot of goals and put a lot of points on the board."
The Golden Eagles, one of the better goal scoring teams in the Southland Conference throughout the season, netted a total of 33 goals. Of those 33, only seven were scored by the outgoing four seniors.
Leading the Golden Eagle team in goals during its inaugural Southland season was freshman Kayla Keller with six goals. Overall, the offense was very balanced, with sophomore Megan Giles putting in four goals, all of which were game-winners, while Jennifer Abernathy and freshman Ashley Martin equaled Giles' four goal output.
Abernathy, along with Parks, topped the post season awards list as first team all-conference selections, while Giles was honored on the second team. Booth, Hall and Keller were joined by sophomore goalkeeper Helen Erb with honorable mentions.
Erb topped the list of in-season award winners, being named the Southland goalkeeper of the week five times in six weeks. Abernathy won the offensive award twice, as did both Parks and Hall with the defensive honor, and Mary-Kate Halsmer was the offensive winner on Sept. 25 following a pair of game-winners against Creighton and Omaha.
"Just as far as a group returning, it's going to be an experienced group, but I think we have a lot of tools in the attacking part of the field returning, which we haven't had in the past," Bush went on to mention.
Highlighting Giles' game-winners was a goal in the 68th minute in a 1-0 victory over Oklahoma in Norman. The victory was the first Golden Eagle win against a Big 12 school since 2004.
"We played a lot of Big 12 schools the last five years, and lost a lot of them by one goal, which has been frustrating. This year, because of the leadership of the seniors, I thought they expected to win."
Bush said it was important to beat teams at that level and he also felt like the Golden Eagles "proved that all year."
The victory against the Sooners was one of seven victories or ties in which the match closed with a one goal difference. Coach Bush also praised the mental aspect of the players who played in nine extra-time contests this season, seven of which went into double-overtime.
"I thought our leadership from the seniors was excellent, and that really helped us in crunch time," explained Bush. "They had a ton of confidence and a ton of composure when it came down to the end of games and needed goals. But I thought more than that, they had a ton of fight and a ton of heart."
"I think it speaks a ton about the chemistry of the group."
Coach Bush's team finished 2-0-1 against in-state opponents, topping Rogers State at home, 2-0, and finishing in a scoreless draw against cross-town rival Tulsa, snapping a three match losing streak against the Golden Hurricane.
The Golden Eagle season came to a close in the conference semi-finals as they ran into the No. 26 team in the nation, Stephen F. Austin, 2-1. The Ladyjacks went on to win the Southland title the next day over Lamar.