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OSU soccer approaches Bedlam against 'unknown' OU

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NCAA 2019 Division I Women's Soccer Championship

Junior Gabriella Coleman takes the ball toward the goal as The Oklahoma State University Cowgirls face off against the South Dakota State Jackrabbits at Neal Patterson Stadium in Stillwater Oklahoma on Nov. 15, 2019

A long-anticipated moment arrives on Friday.

The Oklahoma State women’s soccer team travels to Norman for the first of nine matches in the 2020 season. This Bedlam game will not present OSU with the same challenges it has in the past.

Oklahoma hired coach Mark Carr in December, who spent the past six years coaching the U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team preparing for World Cup qualifying. He also coached the University of San Francisco from 2007-11.

The hiring comes after OU’s previous coach, Matt Potter, split from the soccer program. Despite the similar personnel, OSU coach Colin Carmichael hasn’t overlooked the OU coaching change.

“It’s a lot of unknowns,” Carmichael said. “They got a new coach in after last season. Mark Carr is the new head coach. I know Mark, he’s a great guy, he’s a very good coach, has some great experience with the youth national team, and I’m sure he’ll do some good things down there in Norman.”

Then, there are the challenges of preparation with little film from the shortened season compound the unknowns. Carmichael and the Cowgirls have a solution to that.

“We’ve really just tried to focus on ourselves and getting our kids as ready to play as we possibly can,” Carmichael said. “So, we don’t really know what to expect, what shape they’ll play in, what system. We know some of their players from the last couple of seasons, but Mark will have his own ideas about where and how they should play.”

COVID-19’s impact on the soccer program has only made the players eager to get out on the field. Bedlam being the first game back can only amplify that excitement.

With the opener nearing, OSU’s first game week of the season means more targeted focus.

To senior Hannah Webb, the game prep is different than offseason training.

“During the game week, we start talking a little bit more about the specifics of each team,” Webb said. “So, maybe what formation they run or what players we need to watch out for…but also just in the practice atmosphere, you can tell there is a little buzz. One, because it’s our first game, we’re all super excited and two, because it’s OU, and how can you not get fired up to play OU?”

Not to mention, there is the added eligibility for the graduating players if they choose to return in 2021. The NCAA granted soccer players that extra year on Aug. 19.

With another full season to look forward to in 2021, the ’20 season could be viewed as free matches and experience for the seniors.

But Webb doesn’t see it that way.

“That is in, my thoughts, next year and what that could bring, what that means,” Webb said. “Right now, I do focus my energies on this season, because we have a great team and we have a great opportunity to be playing games and working for a Big 12 championship. So, all that is in the back of my mind, I do want to be present in the moment and focus on the season that we have.”

sports.ed@ocolly.com