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The Trend

The Student News Site of University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma

The Trend

The Student News Site of University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma

The Trend

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Drover Motto Pushes Team Throughout Season

“To be better than they were yesterday” was Coach Hampton’s motto for the season
Coach Hampton hugs his loved ones and celebrates with his team after winning the SAC Semifinals against OCU.

USAO men’s soccer team finished its season with an overall 9-8-4 record, and in the Sooner Athletic Conference (SAC) with a record of 4-4-1. In the 21 games they played this season, the team had 45 goals, 35 assists, and 72 saves.

Jimmy Hampton was first hired to coach both men’s and women’s soccer programs in 1998, and has since then collected many coaching awards. He has also coached over 200 all-conference selectees and 41 All-Americans in his 25 seasons.

As of spring 2023, Coach Hampton decided it was appropriate to step down as the women’s head coach and make the men’s team his sole focus for the rest of his career. He said he believes this decision was in the best interest of the programs and for himself.

“Life is composed of recognizing the little things and it’s the small things that separate good teams from great teams.” Coach Hampton said.

He also stated that a benefit of only running one athletic program helped him be a better coach, as he now had more time to pay attention, correct, and spend more time talking to his athletes about the little things, that he knew could make a big difference maker down the line.

“Coach Hampton has always been very invested, but we could tell this season he was going the extra mile to be there for us, and I could tell that it improved the player to coach relationship for many,” Stefan Savkovic, a junior defender, said.

During the non-conference play of this season, the Drovers had a record of 5-4-3. The team won four of its first seven matchups but hit a cold streak during the middle of their season. After their win Sept. 9 at Sterling College, the team would not win another game until Oct. 17.

This season’s conference play started with four losses and a tie, which reminded the team that every practice and game has “to be better than they were yesterday” as their head coach would say. It was through this mindset that Coach Hampton credits their ability to have made it so far into the tournament.

“It’s not where you start, but how you finish,” Coach Hampton said.

The Drovers took that message to heart as they would win their next four conference games and make it into the SAC tournament as the number six seed. During this tournament run, USAO was able to win against Central Christian College of Kansas in the quarterfinals with an exciting penalty kick finish. Following that, the Drovers beat Oklahoma City University 3-1 in the SAC semifinals. Both of these wins led USAO to the SAC Championship game where they would face the number one nationally ranked and NAIA ranked team Mid-American Christian University (MACU). Although they came up short and lost to MACU 3-, this was a great season turnaround that not many people had expected from the Drovers.

Among the 2023 squad, there was one First Team All-SAC honoree and four Second-Team All-SAC honorees. In his first year as a Drover, Justin Croke received the 2022 SAC Newcomer of the Year award, and this year received the First Team All-SAC honor. As a senior forward Croke ranked fourth in assists (9) and total points (27) out of all the players in the SAC.

USAO’s Second Team All-SAC players included senior middlefielder Angelo Leendertse, junior defender Callum Shepherd, junior middlefielder Matija Malenovic, and freshman defender Stijin Iding.

This year’s team also featured six players who received the NAIA Scholar-Athletes Honors, including junior forward Darko Borisalvjevic, junior defender Luka Jevic, sophomore defender Matthew Yokum, sophomore middlefielder Quentin Mantooth, Malenovic, and Savkovic. This award is given to players who have a 3.5 GPA or higher, have active eligibility with the NAIA, and have been on an NAIA athletic program for at least one year.

The Drovers graduated three seniors, including forward Dani Suarez, Croke, and Leendertse. With the small number of seniors graduating from USAO, the Drovers will look forward to many returning players for the kick off of next season in August 2024.

 

Laura Barrios Bardi is a third-year Arts major at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.

Ray Thomas-Lapham
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About the Contributor
Laura Barrios Bardi, Contributing Photographer
Laura Barrios Bardi a third-year art major from El Paso, TX. Laura currently works for USAO's Sports Information Department as a photographer. She is also a member of USAO's track and field team. Her hobbies include stargazing, spending time with friends, and working towards elevating her photography skills.   Experience with The Trend: Contributing Photographer: Nov. 2022 - present