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Takeaways from OSU spring soccer opener: Coleman impresses in OSU debut

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OSU striker Gabriella Coleman skips past a defender during the Oklahoma State soccer match vs. Rogers State at Neal Patterson Stadium on March 2, 2019.

In her unofficial debut, Gabriella Coleman quickly left her mark at Neal Patterson Stadium.

Coleman, a forward who transferred from Mississippi State during the winter, was directly involved in three goals in the Oklahoma State soccer team’s 4-1 victory against Rogers State on Saturday.

Playing at the top of OSU’s front three, Coleman was instructed to drift wide, thus creating an overload in the left flank. This forced a Rogers State central defender to leave her position to cover Coleman, whose technical superiority was too much to be handled.

OSU’s first goal, courtesy of Grace Yochum, came directly from that scenario. After picking up the ball from the left side, Coleman successfully dribbled past a visitor defender. Then, she squared the ball to an unmarked Yochum, who easily tapped it in from 10 yards out.

Throughout the match, Coleman’s pace was a terror to Rogers State’s right side. Her ability to hold up the ball and link up with other teammates was impressive. OSU's last goal of the day came off a Coleman assist as she laid off a through ball to Ally Jackson while screening a defender.

OSU coach Colin Carmichael had kind words for Coleman, who deservedly notched a goal early in the second period.

“The sky for her is the limit,” Carmichael said. “What we have seen in training, she is very athletic and she is aggressive and she strikes the ball with both feet. We are excited to have her. She is a great pickup and I think for the first game, she does well. I think she is a player that can be useful for us in next fall.”

How will Carmichael line up the front three?

OSU went from celebrating a Big 12 title to being a spectator in the tournament because of a series of injuries. Marlo Zoller and Haley Woodard, who topped the Cowgirls' goalscoring chart last season with six, were deprived of a proper senior farewell when they went down at the latter stage of the last season. Without them, OSU dropped the final five matches while failing to score a goal from open play.

Junior midfielder Jaci Jones played the entire 90 minutes, and it is safe to say she will be the starter as the left inside forward in fall. Coleman, the only out-and-out striker in the team who resembles Woodard’s playing style, will likely pass the test if she can keep up her form of this impressive debut. With Zoller and Woodard moving on from collegiate career and first-choice substitute Taylor Olson’s retirement, Carmichael is required to find a player to fill in the right side of the front three.

Barbara Zagonyi and Yochum received the most minutes at this position, while Jackson, Maddie Morris and Madeline Blasko also had a brief stint. Of these players, Yochum had the most impressive afternoon with a goal and an assist. Zagonyi had some opportunities but couldn’t catch a break. Carmichael said no matter who will start in fall, his players need to improve their goalscoring form.

“We are going to have some options up there,” Carmichael said. “It is about those kids improving in spring. We obviously have to find a way to score more goals than we did last year and that is the big focus for it.” 

Improvement in ball movement

Along with injuries, the Cowgirls’ inability to build up and an over-reliance on long balls led to their doom last season when Zoller and Woodard, the two main recipients, went down. Carmichael made sure the returning players learned the lesson.

In a three-period, 90 minutes match, Carmichael spent most of the two breaks lecturing about how his players need to move the ball. A lot of small details about positioning and decision-making were brought up during the team-talks.

This seemed to work to the Cowgirls’ favor entering the latter period. OSU showed much better ball movement with shorter passes from the back, quick combinations in the middle third and fluid off-ball movements in the final third. This stretched Rogers State’s defense out as the Cowgirls opened up the pitch in the last period. Carmichael said his team always needs to improve its ball movement.

“It is something that we want to be better at,” Carmichael said. “First 30 minutes, I thought it was really bad. But the second and third thirtieth was better. It was something that we talked a lot in the team and I think we just need to keep reminding them that we need to be sharp.”

sports.ed@ocolly.com