DII women's soccer: UTPB hopes for improvement in second Lone Star campaign
Last season didn't yield the results that the Texas-Permian Basin women's soccer team wanted as it dealt with the growing pains of its first season in the Lone Star Conference.
The Falcons were the lone team not to make the six-team conference tournament. It tied on points with Eastern New Mexico and split head-to-head results. The Greyhounds advanced on goal differential.
UTPB now wants to put all that behind it. And the team believes it has the talent to do it.
"They are super hungry," UTPB women's soccer head coach Lindsey Garcia said. "Now we've played everywhere, we've played everybody in the conference twice. I think they're a lot more comfortable and ready to compete against those schools."
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Several players said that by the end of last season, the team was gelling at a level they were happy with. It's continued throughout the spring and now the team came into fall camp ready to add to the program's legacy.
"It seems like things are definitely more relaxed," UTPB sophomore Ariel Roybal said. "Everyone has so much chemistry this year. Last year was a little bit rough; we had a lot of new players."
In 2015, the Falcons' final season in the Heartland Conference, they finished in fifth place with four conference wins -- the best conference result (4-4) in program history.
Now they're looking to transfer those results over to the stiff competition of the Lone Star Conference. Last year, conference rivals Texas A&M-Commerce and Midwestern State made it to the third round of the NCAA Division II Tournament.
"I just want us to come out really completive and go after every team that beat us or said anything about us," UTPB forward Deonna Green said. "I just want us to play hard and give everything we've got every game because it could be our last."
UTPB was picked last in the Lone Star Conference women's soccer preseason poll, but was one of five teams to receive a first-place vote.
"What we really try to do is exceed our own expectations," Garcia said. "It would be nice to have good rankings and stuff but at the end of the day, game day matters."
The Falcons have 17 players returning from last year's team. The only position where they don't have any college experience is goalkeeper.
They open the season today on the road against Lubbock Christian. UTPB plays its home opener Saturday against Wayland Baptist.
"We have a lot of them with a lot of minutes in the Lone Star under their belt," Garcia said."And for them, I think it is better to set smaller targets, achieve that and then keep on moving."
One of the team's seniors -- Permian graduate Kelsey Byrd -- said even the team's newcomers have acclimated to the Falcons quickly.
"The intensity starting out with this team has been at a higher level than it has since I've been here honestly," Byrd said. "This team is always ready to go and ready to work and compete.
"I think we will bring that to our games. Everybody is really competitive here and everyone has the same goal, they want to make it far."
This article is written by Eric Blum from Odessa American, Texas and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.