New coaches, new players and new philosophies meant a year of transition for many the USAO Drover sports teams.
But one team stood out during the 2009-10 season. Heading off to the first round of the National Tournament were Coach Jimmy Hampton and his men’s soccer team.
After a loss early in the season to Briar Cliff, the team began playing even harder.
“You can learn more from one loss than from 10 wins,” Hampton said after the regular season ended.
The team went on to go 15-1-1 in the regular season, with their tie against conference rival Oklahoma City. They then went on to shut out Rogers State and Oklahoma City to earn the Sooner Athletic Conference tournament title — and an automatic bid to the NAIA National Tournament.
“We felt like we were going to be good on the men (side) … but I don’t know that you ever expect to play in the SAC and go unbeaten in the SAC,” Hampton said in November. “15-1-1, I thought our boys had a tremendous year.”
It was the sixth time the team won the tournament out of the seven times they’ve attended.
The first stop for the 11-seeded Drovers was Hastings, Neb., to taking on Hastings College. A heartbreaking penalty kick ended the season for the Drovers, who lost the game 2-1.
The Drovers went 17-2-1 overall, which was the best record in the 11-year program.
The Lady Drovers soccer women stayed high-powered all season, ending the regular season No. 1 in the division for total goals with 87.
The team played in the first round of the conference tournament, but fell in overtime to Oklahoma City. They ended the season 13-6.
The Drovers’ success included six shutouts — three of which were in conference games.
Freshman Calli Cooper was a breakout athlete from Norman and was named SAC Newcomer of Year. Along with her, Taylor Fain, Brittany Jay and goalkeeper Destiny Wilson stood out among the Drovers for great performances all year.
“We have a very good group of kids. I’m not talking about players, but kids,” Hampton said in November of both teams. “We have the ethics and values the university expects.”
Coach Laci Tompkins may have taken over as head coach with the Lady Drovers this season, but she’s not new to the program.
Tompkins played for the Drovers in college and then stayed on as an assistant basketball and head softball coach for three years. After coaching elsewhere, she returned to her alma mater in 2009.
In an away game against John Brown University, Tompkins earned her 200th career win.
With a young team and the coaching transition, the Lady Drovers struggled to find their place until late in the season when things finally started to click. The Drovers ended 6-24.
Senior Charitie Lewis was named All-Conference Second Team and junior Danielle Cota was named an Academic All-SAC in 2010.
Coaches expect the Drovers to be a strong team next year as recruiting efforts are going well, Tompkins said. The team has signed several players who are both accurate shooters and upstanding students.
With only no returning starters and six freshmen, Coach Brisco McPherson knew the season would be a rebuilding one for the Drovers.
“Anytime you bring in as many freshmen as we’ve brought in, you’ve got to expect they’re going to take some hits,” McPherson said before the 2009-2010 season began.
As expected, the team did take a lot of hits, especially against tough conference opponents. Despite a 5-22 finish, the Drovers took a lot of games down to the wire.
Junior Fred Savoie was named to the All-Conference Third Team and senior N’Faly Berete was named an Academic All-SAC.
Conference opponent Oklahoma Baptist went on the claim the national title in March.
When it was all said and done, the Drovers came out with their third best season in school history and pulled off their first back-to-back winning seasons.
It was the first year under Head Coach Mike Ross, who took over for long-time coach L.J. Powell. Ross knew the program and the players, having spent four years as an assistant coach.
Even though the season was one of the best in school history, Ross said he was disappointed with a 28-20 (13-17 in conference) record after 9-0 start.
The Drovers played strong against four of the conference’s toughest teams — Oklahoma City, Lubbock Christian, Wayland Baptist and Southern Nazarene — going 6-6 against them.
Unfortunately, conference losses later in the season kept the Drovers just out of reach of the conference tournament.
Senior pitcher Nate Hammons led the Drovers to eight wins and junior Caleb Martin led the team to another six. Luke Krobath and Conner Bridgman each hit 11 home runs this season and shortstop Regulo Moy had the highest batting average at .413.
Coming from NCAA ball, both as a player and an assistant coach, Head Coach Jenn White-Cody was eager to start her first head coaching position.
In their first tournament, the Lady Drovers went on to win the consolation bracket, and then struggled to pull off conference wins for much of the season. In the last few weeks, Cody found the position in which each player best fit.
“Finally, we got a combination that worked,” Cody said. “At the end, we started to put a little bit together and we were getting better, it was just too late.”
The season was a growing one for the team as well as for Cody, she said. The Drovers ended the season 16-36.
The team lost eight seniors — including all of its pitchers — but Cody is already hard at work to bring in new recruits and is expecting the program to continue to climb.