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Texas Tech Pins High Hopes on Nine Returning Starters

With two winning seasons behind them and a strong crew of returnees and newcomers, the Red Raider soccer team is ready to tackle a tough schedule and the Big 12 conference.

The Red Raiders will attempt to continue their winning ways and build on last year's 12-7-2 finish and a ninth place ranking in the Central Region. Nine returning starters and two other letterwinners will lead this season's team.

Among those returning is senior midfielder, team captain and All-Big 12 candidate Kristi Patterson. Last season the two time team MVP and All-SWC women's soccer team selection led the Red Raiders in goals and points.

"She has made a huge contribution to this team. She is a great distributor of the ball, who is tenacious and does not know the words give up. She is the kind of player every coach likes to have on their team," head coach Diane Nichols said.

Fellow senior Vicki Laursen will also contribute to the Red Raider defense. As a marking back, Laursen holds the distinction of being the "most physical player" on the team.

"She's a defensive leader who does what it takes to get the ball. I'd hate to coach against her because she continues to learn more about the game and get more disciplined," Nichols said.

Also returning this season is junior Julie Clement and sophomores Jennifer Benat and Jennifer Wood. Clement, a midfielder who had six goals and five assists last season, will lead the aerial assault for the Red Raiders.

"She wins everything in the air. When her determination combines with her leaping ability, she wins air balls. She is just fearless in the air," Nichols said.

Wood will return to the defender position where last season she had two assists. The skilled marker gives added dimension to the Red Raider team by coming out of the back and taking the ball forward.

"Woody usually gets the difficult assignment of marking our opponents best forward, yet she attacks out of the back," Nichols said.

Last season Benat ranked third in goals scored with eight and led the team in assists with seven. She returns at the forward position.

"Jennifer has a good understanding of the game, and therefore makes good decisions on the field," Nichols said.

Building on that foundation, the Red Raiders have five newcomers who should have an immediate impact on the 1996 team.

Challenging for the true forward position will be Kristy Frantz and Amaris Weeks. Frantz is aggressive and will be a "go to goal type player" that Tech has been looking for at the forward position.

"Kristy has a knack for putting the ball in the goal," Nichols said. Playing up top with Frantz will be Weeks, who likes to beat opponents with her quickness and change of speed.

These two players know how to finish. Both have quick feet and are tough in one-on-one situations," Nichols said.

At the midfield position, the Red Raiders will add Amy Hocking and Lizzy Biles. With the ability todevelop into the most versatile player on this season's squad, Hocking will add speed and an ability to read the game. "She knows the game of soccer and reads it so well. I think she'll be a great addition," Nichols said.

Joining fellow lefty Julie Clement, Biles will bring a gift for heading to the squad.

"Lizzy, like Julie, is very good in the air and works hard in the midfield," Nichols said. Lizzie Pruitt will vie for a spot at goalkeeper this season. With good size and quality hands, Pruitt will battle Becky Wendt for the spot left vacant by graduate Stephanie Carter.

"Lizzie's courageous and that's what we need in a goalkeeper. She's not afraid to go down at a forwards' feet.," Nichols said.

Other who will make significant contributions to the Tech attack will be sophomore defender Stacy Livingston, junior defender Vanessa Balderrama, and junior co-captain Raney Terrell.

With quality returnees and top notch newcomers, the Red Raider team is ready to take on the Big 12 and a tough non-conference schedule that includes such consistently strong teams as Tulsa and Central Florida.

"It's a strong schedule that is very competitive. I have the utmost respect for every team we play," Nichols said. Nichols expects the Big 12 to be a premiere conference that will showcase women's soccer. Texas A&M and the University of Texas are formidable foes for the Red Raiders, while Nebraska will add an additional challenge.

With this mix of familiar faces and new ones, the Red Raider team is ready to claim their third winning season in as many years and make mark on the Big 12.

"We are young, but ambitious and ready for the challenge," Nichols said.

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