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ABILENE, Texas – In head coach Alan Riches‘ third season, the War Hawk women’s soccer team will look to continue to take the steps to becoming contenders, having improved their record in each of the last two seasons. “We took some baby steps over the last two years,” said Riches, “we will look to continue to set attainable goals and continue to improve every game of the season.”

Transitional stages are never easy for a team – especially a transition like the War Hawks are making – but the move to NCAA Division II is something that coach Riches is looking forward to. “We are excited for the competitive nature of Division II, and we feel that we have brought in a great group of players that will help this team continue to improve even in a tougher setting,” said the third year coach, who in his second season led the team to four wins doubling its win total from 2010.

This season, Riches will benefit from the most experienced team that he has assembled on the field in his tenure as coach. “Come the start of the season, nine of 11 of the starting players will have some playing experience under their belts.”

Of the experienced players, five of them were with Riches from the team’s 4-12 season a year ago, including all four of the War Hawk’s top point scorers. Sophomores Addison Tate, Paige Harwell, Kristen Grant, and juniors Rachel Moore and Berenice Miramontes make up the returning experience for the team.

“All of our players from last season that are back for this year played a big role during the 2011 season,” said Coach Riches. “We went through some tough times last year, but the five returners, I feel, stepped up big last year, and will be vital to the team’s success this year.”

Last season, Grant notched 16 points in her first season (6 goals, 4 assists) and Harwell came second behind her with 10 points (4 goals, 2 assists). Overall, the five returning players accounted for 15 of the team’s 20 goals last season.

“You never want to put a lot of responsibility on underclassmen, but last season we did, and the underclassmen really stepped up,” remarked Riches.

“With the experience that they earned last season, our returners are going to be a vital part of our success in the upcoming year.”

Fortunately for Coach Riches, the returning players will not be the only ones with playing experience coming into the season, as the War Hawks will see seven transfer players don the maroon and black in 2012.

“Moving to Division II, it was important to bring in more players with some collegiate experience, and we thought we did a great job adding some talented players to the roster. We plan to play everyone on the roster this season, and no starting spot has been locked, because we feel that anyone could step up and play at any time.”

With no specific spot being won, Riches is still excited for the season to begin. “We have so many players that are capable of doing something great this season, that anyone could step up at any given time. Any time you have a team where anyone can make a big play, you always have a great chance for success.”

The War Hawks will open the season with three straight road contests before returning for their home opener on September 14th. Over the course of the year, McMurry will play nine away games, while enjoying home-field advantage nine times as well.

“Our goal this year, just like in every year, is to improve upon the season from before,” said Riches.

“We have bettered our record each of the last two seasons, and we will look forward to doing that again this season.”