Joplin, Mo. - The Missouri Southern soccer team will open the 2013 season under fourth-year head coach Alese Woolard Friday evening as the Lions host Great American Conference member Southwestern Oklahoma State for a 7 pm start at Hal Bodon Field. The Lions will follow up their matchup with the Bulldogs by hosting Northern Sun Conference member Augustana (S.D.) on Sunday at noon.
Coming off a 5-10-3 overall record in 2012 and a seventh place finish in the MIAA, the Lions will look to improve upon those two marks in 2013. Predicted to finish seventh in the MIAA preseason poll, the Lions return an experienced squad that features 12 upperclassmam, including two of their top three point scorers in seniors Tiffany Laughlin and Dana Wilhelm and both goalkeepers who would combine for a .714 save percentage while holding opponents to a 1.90 GAA. Woolard will rely on those returners to help lead the Lions this year and fulfill their goal of reaching the NCAA Tournament.
A look at the Bulldogs: Led by fifth-year head coach Mark Persson, Southwestern Oklahoma had a banner year for the program in 2012 finishing the year with school records for wins (20), goals (46), assists (46), shots attempted (363), shots on goal (212) and goals against average (0.59). Winning both the Great American Conference regular season and conference tournament championships, the Bulldogs qualified for NCAA Tournament where they would advance to the second round before falling 3-0 to MIAA power Central Missouri. The unanimous choice to repeat as GAC champions, the Bulldogs return four First-Team All-GAC selections while also returning last year's GAC freshman of the year in midfielder Ashlee Beitinger. The Lions are 1-3 all-time versus the Bulldogs falling in Weatherford last year 3-0 in their latest matchup. Southern's lone win came at home in 2001 winning 5-1.
A look at the Vikings: Hailing from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Augustana finished 2012 with a 6-10-2 overall record, while finishing 10th in the 16-team NSIC with a 5-8-2 mark. Predicated to finish eighth in the NSIC preseason poll, the Vikings return their top two leading scorers in junior midfielder Payton Fry and all-conference senior midfielder Kara Bartels. The Lions are 2-0 all-time versus the Vikings earning victories in 2004 and 2005 winning 3-1 on the road in 2004 while triumphing 3-0 in Joplin in 2005.