Southern Oregon women kick off season today

The Southern Oregon women's soccer team will begin its non-conference schedule today when it tangles with Concordia-Irvine (Calif.) at 5 p.m.

On Sunday, the first-ever Oregon-California Soccer Challenge will wrap up with a doubleheader. Second-ranked Concordia (Ore.) will battle Concordia (Calif.) at 11 a.m. and the Raiders will host Oregon Tech in a non-conference match at 1:30 p.m.

Southern Oregon turned around an 0-5 start in 2008 to finish with nine wins, coming just one match short of the Cascade Conference tournament championship. The Raiders have been picked to finish fourth in the 2009 CCC preseason coaches' poll.

Sophomore Denise Powell (Grants Pass) is the team's returning leading goal-scorer and freshman Stephanie Carr will be counted on to lead a more potent offensive attack in her first season at SOU.

"We think Stephanie can be a dominant player in our conference," fourth-year SOU head coach Jon Clement said of Carr. "She has very clean technique, can connect almost anything brought her way and she has great instincts in the penalty area."

Junior Auika Muragin, a first-team All-Conference selection last year, also returns in what Clement hopes will be a bigger role. Other key returners include: juniors Dianne Uehara (defender) and Sarah Switzer (midfielder), and sophomore goalkeeper Jessica Kuehlwein, who had six shutouts in her first season as a Raider.

Clement also expects big contributions from freshman defender Tori Chambliss (El Dorado Hills, Calif.), who was the only Raider to play all 90 minutes in the team's friendly against the Davis Radiation (Calif.) soccer club.

"On a day that we played some very good soccer as a team, Tori might have played better than anybody," Clement said, "and there aren't too many freshmen that are going to be able to stay that consistent through the whole game in one of their first times out there."

After the weekend, Southern Oregon will make stops in Idaho and Montana for more non-conference action before returning home on Sept. 11 to face Fresno Pacific.

"The idea in the preseason is for every girl that comes here to play the most challenging soccer possible," Clement said. "A tough preseason is only going to make these girls better, and I think the challenge is more fun for them."

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