No. 19 Texas Tech soccer ready to open 2016 campaign - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

No. 19 Texas Tech soccer ready to open 2016 campaign

Tom Stone (Source: TTU Athletics) Tom Stone (Source: TTU Athletics)

Provided by Texas Tech Athletics

LUBBOCK, Texas – The No. 19 Texas Tech soccer team begins the 2016 campaign with a pair of 7 p.m. matches at the John Walker Soccer Complex, squaring off with New Mexico on Friday and Missouri State on Sunday.

Both matches will be available via live stream on TexasTech.TV and live stats on TexasTech.Statbroadcast.com.

"It's been a bit of a regional rivalry, we've been playing New Mexico for a few years now," head coach Tom Stone said about New Mexico. "They've changed coaching staff's, Heather [Dyche] does an unbelievable job with this group and they're out to prove something. So, you're going to get an athletic, feisty New Mexico team that's got something to prove. We squeaked by them last year, 1-0, so we know it's going to be a tight game."

Since Stone's arrival in Lubbock, the Red Raiders have amassed an incredible 62-20-3 record at the John Walker Soccer Complex. Texas Tech has won their home opener every year since 2006. During that stretch, Tech has outscored opponents 34-3 in home openers.

"Opening night at the John Walker Soccer Complex has been pretty special for us, so we're hoping that excitement level will carry it for us as well. Everyone in this town who has watched us knows we have a feisty team. Our girls love to battle and those are great traits to have on opening weekend."

Friday's match will be the fourth-straight season the Red Raiders have scheduled the Lobos, picking up victories in three of those matches, while the 2014 contest was canceled. The all-time series between the two programs is tied at 4-4-1. Sunday's game will be the first time in school history the Red Raiders and Missouri State have met on a soccer field.

Texas Tech returns 17 letterwinners, including seven starters from last year's Big 12 Championship-winning squad. The Red Raiders went 14-4-5 in 2015 and captured the first conference title in program history. Tech also advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the fourth consecutive season.

Goalkeeper Lauren Watson makes up a quarter of the Red Raider senior trio, along with defenders Jade Dapaah & Meagan McCullough, and midfielder Maddy Crabtree. Watson led the Big 12 in 2015 in saves with 98, while also putting up the second-best goals against average in the league at 0.73. At the conference tournament, her efforts in net earned her Big 12 Championship Defensive Most Outstanding Player.

In front of Watson are seven returning defenders who saw action in 2015. Senior Meagan McCullough leads the group and is joined by Cassie Boren and Brooke Denesik as three of the Red Raider defenders who started 18 or more matches last season. The stingy defense held opponents to just 18 goals and recorded 11 shutouts in 2015, which ranked second in the conference.

The offense is younger than the defensive side of the ball, but packs a lot of firepower that's waiting to be unleashed. Forward Gwennie Puente and midfielder Jordan Duke are two sophomores on the offense poised for a big year. The duo combined for one of the biggest goals in program history in 2015, as Duke assisted on Puente's Big 12 Championship-winning goal against Kansas in the conference tournament. Freshmen Jade King and Jordie Harr are two freshmen who will have the opportunity to put up big numbers for Tech this season. King found the back of the net twice in the exhibition against Denver on her first two shots of the match, finishing with six overall.

Friday also marks the start of the 10th season for Tom Stone at the helm of the Texas Tech soccer program. Since the beginning of his tenure in 2007, Stone has accumulated a record of 108-58-21, with four-straight NCAA Tournament and nine Big 12 Championship appearances.

INTO THE RANKINGS
The Red Raiders will open the season ranked No. 19 in the preseason National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) poll, which the league released on Aug. 2. It marks 15 consecutive weeks Tech has appeared in the top 25 of the rankings. In 2015, the Red Raiders began the year at No. 15 and climbed as high as 13th in the poll. Tech climbed in the rankings for five-straight weeks in 2015, after the Red Raiders went on a 12-match unbeaten streak, the nation's longest at that point in the season.

ANOTHER YEAR, ANOTHER STRONG SCHEDULE
Along with a strong conference slate, the Red Raiders will also face four teams ranked in the preseason NSCAA rankings, two at home and two on the road. The next two weekends will provide ranked contests for the Red Raiders in their own backyard, as they'll take on No. 20 Arizona on Friday, Aug. 26, followed by No. 18 California the following Friday, Sep. 2. Two weeks later, Tech will travel to Los Angeles to play No. 25 Loyola Marymount on Friday, Sep. 16 in their final weekend before conference action begins. On Oct. 14, the Red Raiders will battle with No. 6 West Virginia in Morgantown, in a matchup that pits the top two preseason teams, as voted on by the Big 12 head coaches.

PRESEASON RECOGNITION
The Red Raiders were picked to finish second in the 2016 Big 12 standings, as part of the preseason poll that was voted on by the league coaches. It is the fourth consecutive season Tech has been projected to finish second in the conference, which had five of the nine teams ranked nationally, or receiving votes, throughout the season.

HONOR ROLL
Senior Goalkeeper Lauren Watson was named to the 2016 Preseason All-Big 12 Soccer team last week. Watson started in 22 matches in 2015 and led the Big 12 in saves last year with 98. She accounted for 10 clean-sheets and pieced together a 0.73 goals against average, both of which ranked second in the Big 12. Watson was also rated as the No. 7 player in the conference and No. 85 in the nation by TopDrawerSoccer.com.

2015 QUICK HITTER
The Red Raiders finished the 2015 season with a 14-4-5 overall record and captured the program's first Big 12 Championship. Tech also advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the fourth consecutive season. In January, two Red Raiders were drafted in the 2016 National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) College Draft, as Janine Beckie went eighth overall to the Houston Dash, followed by Alli Murphy to the Washington Spirit with the 20th pick. With the selections, Texas Tech became one of four college programs in the nation to have multiple picks in the first two rounds.

Tech was the only Big 12 school to have a player drafted in the top 10 for the second-straight season and the only school in Texas in the last two years to have a player drafted in consecutive seasons. Beckie also represented Canada in the 2016 Olympic Games, tallying three goals, including the fastest goal ever scored in a women's Olympic soccer match, coming 21 seconds into their opening match against Australia.

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