The East Central University soccer team will open the 2014 season at the Great American Conference/Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association Challenge in Searcy, Ark. The Lady Tigers will first battle with Emporia State, Friday, Sept. 5 at 5 p.m. and then Missouri Western State, Sunday, Sept. 7 at 1 p.m.
Fans who can't be at the match can find links to live stats and live video (if available) on ECUTigers.com. Go to the soccer schedule page.
Scouting Emporia State
The Hornets finished the 2013 season with a 9-8-3 overall record, a 4-4-3 mark in the MIAA and advanced to the semifinals of the MIAA tournament. ESU has 11 returners from last year's team, including its two top scorers.
McKenzie Koch tallied a team-best five goals and added an assists for 11 points, while Jordan Foutch added four goals and an assist. The Hornets also return their top goalkeeper from a season ago in Yadira Rivera. Rivera played in 18 matches, allowing 15 goals, recording a .878 saves percentage and an 8-7-3 record.
Against the Hornets
ECU last faced ESU to start the 2012 season, where they fell 0-1 on a neutral field. Katie Glutz recorded on shot on goal in the game and goalkeeper Taylor Lowe tallied eight saves.
The Lady Tigers and ESU have meet on seven previous occasions, with the all-time series standing a 3-3-1. The last meeting was Aug. 31, 2012, when the Hornets earned a 1-0 win on a neutral surface. ESU currently holds a 0-2-1 advantage when playing at a neutral field.
Scouting Missouri Western State
The Griffins were 2-13-3 overall in 2013 and 0-10-1 in the MIAA. MWSU has 11 returners, including nine starters. The Griffins will start the 2014 season Friday, Sept. 5 against Harding.
Tara Russell is the top returner from 2013, having scored four goals and adding an assist for nine points. Sarah Lyle also returns in the net for the Griffins. Lyle played 16 matches a year ago, allowed 31 goals and recorded a .782 saves percentage.
Against the Griffins
The last meeting with MWSU was Sept. 2, 2012 when the Lady Tigers fell 0-2 on the road. Taylor Kennedy led the team with one shot on goal and Taylor Lowe recorded five saves and allowed one goal.
The teams have meet on six previous occasions, with MWSU holding a 4-2 advantage. However, the Lady Tigers have been the victor in the lone match they have played on a neutral field.
The last meeting was Sept. 2, 2012 (L, 0-2/A) and the last meeting on a neutral surface was Sept. 3, 2010 (W, 3-2 (OT)/N).
Depth Key to 2014 Success
The ECU coaching staff has a lot of confidence in the team heading into the 2014 season, as they return 20 letterwinners and eight starters from the 2013 season and have added in eight players to the roster. That has set up a more competitive preseason for players to earn their playing time and starting roles.
Starting on the Right Foot
Since the start of soccer at ECU, the Lady Tigers have gone 9-7-1 in the opening matches of the season. That includes a 1-1 mark when playing on a neutral field in the first match of the year.
Heavy Home Schedule Late
This season those wishing to see the Lady Tigers in action at home against other members of the GAC will have to wait until late in the season. This year all the home conference matches are in a block at the end of the season, starting Oct. 16 against Northwestern Oklahoma State.
The Lady Tigers will have a busy week next week, with three matches. ECU will open their home schedule, Wednesday, Sept. 10 against Newman at 5 p.m. and then host Oklahoma Baptist, Friday, Sept. 12 at 4 p.m. The final match of the week is a road trip to Missouri Southern State, Sunday, Sept. 14 at 1 p.m.