As junior wingback Alex Morris stood in the media room in early August, she showed nothing but disdain for the Big 12 women’s soccer preseason poll.
Oklahoma State, coming off of a missed NCAA tournament appearance for the first time since 2018, had been picked to finish fifth in the conference.
“This team is better than fifth place in the Big 12,” she said heading prior to her team’s season-opening match.
Coach Colin Carmichael placed emphasis on the glaring potential of this year’s roster, and the talent was there. Two of the program’s all-time leading goal scorers in Dowell and Yochum, returned as the leaders of a young team.
Fast forward, the Cowgirls finished as well as originally anticipated. A fifth place conference finish with an overall record of 11-4-4 and a second consecutive missed NCAA tournament appearance for the first time since the 2015-16 seasons.
So what went wrong?
Injuries to players such as freshman goalie Jordan Nytes, Yochum, Dowell, veteran defender Mollie Breiner and others, contributed to the inconsistencies of this year’s Cowgirls team.
Through 13 matches, Nytes and the defensive backline had conceded six goals. On the other end, OSU hit an offensive standstill once conference play began. The Cowgirls amassed just nine goals through nine matches in Big 12 play.
“We developed an identity on defense without a doubt,” Carmichael said. “But I can’t help but wonder how we could have looked like (offensively) if we hadn’t had the injury bug as bad as we did.”
As of now, Carmichael remains confident that his team can make a return to the NCAA tournament in 2023.
“Xcaret (Pineda) and Gracie (Bindbeutel) have the potential to be the next Grace Yochum and Olyvia Dowell and there’s no doubt in my mind about that,” Carmichael said. “Jordy (Nytes), her work speaks for itself, that kid is gonna be a star.”
Amid the emotional flows that come with goodbyes to preliminary figures within a team, Carmichael can’t help but maintain a positive attitude towards the future of his program.
“I’m disappointed that we came up slightly short but I can’t be disappointed in the effort the group put in,” Carmichael said. “They fought through injuries and early uncertainty and I’m proud of them for that. If not for one or two or three little moments along the season, maybe we would be continuing the season. So, I’m disappointed for the kids, but obviously excited about the future in what we have coming in next year.”