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Cowgirl underclassmen fill in for injured players, fall to West Virginia

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Players from Oklahoma State and West Virginia go for the ball after a goal kick. 

The Oklahoma State soccer team swapped its usual black or orange uniforms for pink ones in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Coach Colin Carmichael also had to do some swapping with his starting lineup because of the hefty number of injured players on his roster.

The changes to the starting squad and the effort from underclassman players could not help the Cowgirls, who lost 2-1 against West Virginia on Friday at Neal Patterson Stadium.

Six of OSU’s starters against WVU were underclassmen, including freshmen Grace Yochum, Ally Jackson and Grace Neville.

Yochum is a regular in the Cowgirls’ (10-5-1, 2-4-1 Big 12) starting lineup, having started 14 of 15 matches.

Jackson is getting more playing time and starting roles because of her teammates’ injuries. Carmichael has started Jackson in four of the past seven games going back to her first start in a victory against Kansas State.

The Friday match against the No. 16 Mountaineers was Neville’s first career home start. She previously tallied one on the road against Illinois.

With the success of upperclassmen this season for the Cowgirls, many players had big cleats to fill.

Yochum had great praise for how her fellow freshmen competed against WVU.

“(The freshmen) have stepped up, and they’ve done great,” Yochum said. “We’re just kind of thrown in there, and the coaches give us great support and tell us what to do, so we try out best to do it.”

The Mountaineers (10-3-3, 6-1-0) controlled the first half of the match, barely letting the Cowgirls touch the ball.

The lack of chemistry among many of the players cost OSU in the defensive zone. The Cowgirls gave up 14 shots to WVU in the first half.

In the 19th minute, WVU’s Sh’nia Gordon was brought down in the box, setting the Mountaineers up for a penalty shot. Bianca St. George knocked the ball past goalkeeper Dani Greenlee to give the Mountaineers the lead.

In a greatly injured attack, Yochum was pushed from her usual midfielder position to forward.

“When playing a team like West Virginia, you gotta play more defensive and then use your counterattacks,” Yochum said.

Yochum added she’s still trying to figure out playing in a position that is different from previous matches.

In one of the few offensive possessions the Cowgirls had in the first half, junior Jaci Jones created a chance when she was knocked down in the box. Another underclassman, sophomore Kim Rodriguez, set up for the penalty kick and knocked it past WVU’s Rylee Foster to tie the match in the 42nd minute.

For the rest of the match, the Mountaineers controlled the ball. WVU put up another 19 shots in the second half, but Carmichael said he was still proud of the defense’s effort.

In the 87th minute, WVU’s Hannah Abraham headed in a cross from Nadya Gill to give the Mountaineers the victory.

The Cowgirls were sad after the loss but kept their heads high because of their effort on the field.

 “As a whole, I thought we did really good blocking the ball and putting our body on the line for each tackle,” Jackson said.

The defeat against WVU was the Cowgirls’ fourth straight. They dropped only one match this season before the losing streak.

The Cowgirls compete again Sunday at home against Iowa State. 

“Unfortunately, I guess, part of it when you get injuries, you have to go a little deeper in the bench,” Carmichael said. “Those (underclassmen) came in and (did) all they could for the team, and I appreciate it.”

sports.ed@ocolly.com