Women’s soccer looks to follow up strong 2016 season

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Forward Vanessa Valadez dribbles up the field. Photo credit: SMU Athletics

The SMU Women’s Soccer team is looking to build on a solid 2016 campaign. Last year, it made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006. Its season ended in heartbreak, as the Mustangs lost a close 1-0 game to Oklahoma in the first round.

The team took a huge step forward from 2015 to 2016. In 2015, it won just five games and did not make the conference tournament. In 2016, the team went 13-7-2, and fell to UConn in the conference tournament final.

This season, the Mustangs will look to take another step forward, and potentially win the conference tournament and advance in the NCAA Tournament.

SMU returns nine starting players from the 2016 season under the leadership of sixth-year head coach Chris Petrucelli.

One key player that will return is midfielder Claire Oates. Oates tied for the team lead in goals last season with 10, and stepped up in the clutch. Her six game-winning goals ranked No. 9 in the NCAA. Oates will be a senior this season.

Starting goalie Catie Brown is also returning for this season. Brown started every game for the Mustangs last year, and was instrumental in the team’s success. She made 53 saves last season, including a career-high six against East Carolina. Brown was named the American Athletic Conference Goalkeeper of the Week Aug. 28. Brown has saved 10 out of 31 shots so far this season.

Forward Vanessa Valadez will be another key player next season. The junior recorded nine goals and eight assists last year, as she was an important cog in the offense. Valadez’s goal at the end of the game against Washington brought the Mustangs a 2-1 win.

The team has started off the 2017 season hot and undefeated through its first four games. It has played well despite a tough schedule, beating No. 16 Oklahoma and drawing with No. 17 Arkansas.

The Mustangs just wrapped up a trip to Washington, wherethey drew with Gonzaga and beat the University of Washington.

In the latest rankings from the United Soccer Coaches’ Poll, SMU is No. 22. This is the first time SMU has been ranked within the Top 25 since 2006. The team’s next game is Aug. 31 at Wescott Field against Sam Houston State at 7 p.m.

Three more home games will follow against Indiana, TCU and Baylor. All games offer free admission to any fans and the first 200 fans will receive a free clear drawstring backpack upon entry.

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