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Women's soccer: Sioux open today at home

The UND women's soccer team faced a number of challenges in its first season as a Division I program last year. Besides the tougher competition, the Sioux played 10 opponents they'd never seen before. They also played 14 of 18 games on the road. ...

The UND women's soccer team faced a number of challenges in its first season as a Division I program last year.

Besides the tougher competition, the Sioux played 10 opponents they'd never seen before. They also played 14 of 18 games on the road.

This season looks to be a little easier. They have seven home games, and 10 of their 17 games will be against opponents they've played before.

"We'll be familiar with the teams this year," second-year coach Kristen Gay said. "We might have a bit more of an advantage going into the season, but I'm not sure there's an easy team on the schedule."

The travel definitely took its toll on the team last season. The Sioux were 2-1 at home (one game was called no contest) and finished 5-12 on the season.

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"It was just traveling for like a month and a half," senior defender Haley Oase said. "I felt like it drug on for some people. I think we have something to work for this year rather than just traveling all the time."

Oase missed the majority of last season with a knee injury, but said sitting on the sideline provided her with a different outlook.

"I'm more excited than I have been for other seasons," she said. "I think (sitting out) helped. I got to see things from a different perspective. Now in the back of my mind I'm trying to remember what I saw and how I can fix it."

UND will play 16 Division I opponents this season, including South Dakota, Utah Valley, Houston Baptist and Texas Southern. But this time, they're not all unknown.

"Last year, we didn't know what to expect against each team," senior captain Mandi Boehmer said. "Now we know how to prepare each week against each team. We can focus on their weaknesses rather than just practice in general."

The Sioux also have something to look forward to this season as they will play in the Great West Conference tournament Nov. 6-9 in Newark, N.J.

"We're taking the schedule in sections," Boehmer said. "It's all in preparation for the conference tournament. We feel like we have something to prove and can't wait to start playing conference games."

The Great West Conference includes eight teams, divided into east and west divisions. UND is in the west, along with Utah Valley, Houston Baptist and former North Central Conference rival South Dakota.

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"We just have something to play for now," Gay said. "We actually get to compete during the season for a good seed entering the tournament."

South Carolina State, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Howard and Delaware State make up the east division.

UND plays its first conference game Oct. 2 at South Dakota and will play six conference games.

"We're all prepared and pretty excited to play in front of our fans on our field," Boehmer said. "We've been practicing pretty hard and can't wait to put it into a game and see what the end result is."

Both players agreed that scoring will be a challenge for the Sioux, who were outscored 45-26 last season.

"We have the shots, we just don't capitalize," Oase said.

UND is looking at a physical contest in its season opener today against Northern Iowa. The teams face off at 2 p.m. at Bronson Field.

"It's going to be a tough 90 minutes for our kids, for sure," Gay said.

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UND and Northern Iowa have played twice before, with UNI winning 3-0 in 2007 and 3-1 in 2008. Both games were played in Cedar Falls.

"It will be nice to have them at our place," Gay said. "Everyone wants to do a little bit better than last year. We lost some close games that we want to rectify. We want more than five wins."

Related Topics: UND SOCCERUND SPORTS
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