Out with the old, in with the new.
The Big 12 is in the midst of shuffling the deck with two new additions to the women’s soccer side of things for the 2012 season. West Virginia and TCU join the league, while Texas A&M and Missouri head to the SEC.
The Mountaineers won the Big East tournament last season, but ended the year abruptly with a first round exit to Virginia Tech in the NCAA tournament. Despite the quick end, West Virginia is still poised to be one of the top teams in the Big 12 in the fall with three of its top four goalscorers last season back.
Mountaineers head coach Nikko Izzo-Brown is taking the squad to Spain for spring training with three games planned over a nine-day stretch.
Fellow new addition TCU is looking to improve in the spring after finishing tied for last in the Mountain West last season. The Horned Frogs hired a new head coach, Eric Bell, in December.
Bell is the former associate head coach with Florida State. He was responsible for recruiting many of the stars to Tallahassee, so it is perhaps no surprise that he brought in 10 new players to the TCU program with his first recruiting class.
Wright started 16 games at keeper as a freshman last season, which included a ten-save performance against nationally ranked and new conference foe Oklahoma State.
The Horned Frogs have a five-game schedule planned for spring with games against Tulsa, SMU, Texas Tech, and Texas State still to come after already facing Rice in early March.
With Texas A&M and Missouri exiting the conference, Oklahoma State enters spring ball as clearly the team to beat, which is a far cry from where this program started sixteen years ago.
Head coach Colin Carmichael has been the one in charge since the program’s inception in 1996. He preserved through the first six Big 12 seasons with only 11 wins combined, and now claims back-to-back regular season conference titles. The Cowgirls have either won the Big 12 Conference regular season or tournament in each of the last four years.
Oklahoma State’s top returner is goalkeeper Adrianna Franch, who was an All-American last year. The junior keeper was second in the nation in goals-against average with 0.348, and tied for first in shutouts.
“It is great to have AD [Franch] back,” Carmichael told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “She has been very vocal, it gives the new players a lot of confidence.”
The Cowgirls started spring games earlier in March with a doubleheader against Tulsa and Oral Roberts. The game against Tulsa ended in a draw. Sophomore Kristen Kelley and junior Megan Marchesano scored in the 2-0 win over Oral Roberts.
“We have a young team,” Carmichael said. “Seven seniors graduated, and now we are looking for players to step up. Practices are gradually getting better.”
Carmichael’s group squares off against Big 12 rival Baylor on April 1 for the next spring game.
The Baylor Bears finished third in the Big 12 last season and made it to the NCAA postseason for the first time in 11 years. The Bears were led offensively by the stellar play of junior forward Dana Larsen and junior supersub Lisa Sliwinski.
Baylor returns the majority of scorers from last year’s team, so head coach Marci Jobson has challenged them this spring season with a daunting list of opponents.
"We are bringing back a large part of the 2011 team, so this type of competition will be good heading into the fall,” Jobson said in a release.
Beyond the Oklahoma State game, Jobson’s team also faces former conference foe Texas A&M and Stephen F. Austin in the spring.
New arrival TCU is not the only program shifting head coaches this spring. After finishing tied for last in the conference last year, Oklahoma also decided to change coaches in December.
The Sooners hired Washington State head coach Matt Potter. The Englishman led the Cougars to the NCAA tournament three times in eight seasons, and will be looking to accomplish the same type of reversal of fortune with Oklahoma.
Former Tennessee head coach Angela Kelly takes the reins at Texas, replacing Chris Petrucelli.
Big 12 Players to Watch:
AD Franch, Junior, Oklahoma State, Goalkeeper – The junior keeper collected All-American honors in her third season in Stillwater. With her leadership, the Cowgirls led the nation in goals-against average and shutouts in the fall. Big 12 offenses will be happy to learn she will be a senior next year.
Ingrid Vidal, Freshman, Kansas, Forward – Before even putting on her Kansas jersey, Vidal had already played in a FIFA Women’s World Cup. Last summer, she appeared in two games for Colombia in group play, but the team did not advance past the first stage.
Vidal used that experience to propel her through her first collegiate season. She scored 11 goals and contributed six assists, as the Jayhawks finished 11-9-1 on the year.
Jessica Fuston, Sophomore, Texas Tech, Forward – The 2010 Big 12 Freshman of the Year only slowed down a little bit in her sophomore campaign. After scoring 11 goals in her first season, Fuston added eight goals to the lead the Red Raiders in 2011. She now ranks fifth all time in goals scored for Texas Tech.
J.R. Eskilson is a staff reporter at TopDrawerSoccer.com. Follow him on or send him an email.