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Jeff Kolpack, Published August 16 2012

Bison soccer has a new, young look

FARGO – About all that is left from last season with the North Dakota State women’s soccer team is its grass practice and game fields, crafted once again to perfection.

The team that plays on it, however, is for the most part beginning from square one, and that includes a daily post-practice yoga routine.

Its purpose is flexibility and injury prevention.

“We’ve seen a huge difference since the first day to today,” said head coach Mark Cook earlier this week.

The huge difference in the overall program starts with Cook, who took over for Pete Cuadrado. He inherits a team with just three returning seniors. Almost half of the 22-player roster consists of freshmen.

“Certainly, you would rather have 10 seniors than 10 freshmen,” Cook said. “You have players who have been there, done that.”

But it’s also a chance for Cook to immediately instill his philosophy on the younger players, some of whom will be counted on to produce right away. NDSU went 15-3-2 last year with a team that reached the NCAA tournament two years ago.

“It’s a little different because those of us who are left have never had to lead because we had 10 seniors last year,” said forward Brooklyn Dyce. “A lot of us have big shoes to fill, but we have the squad to do it.”

Building team unity and improving every week is the pre-Summit League goal now.

“We’re not the fastest team and we’re not the most athletic team right now,” Cook said. “But there is enough talent there to win games for sure.”

The top returning scorer is junior forward Katie Tallas, who was second on the team with 12 points. Senior midfielder Holly Christian started all 20 games and Dyce is a constant scoring threat.

The two goalkeepers – Katie McCormick from Green Bay, Wis., and Sierra Bonham from Red Deer, Alberta – are both freshmen. NDSU tied Creighton University (Neb.) 1-1 in its only exhibition game last weekend, a match where Cook said he learned his team wasn’t in “game fit” condition yet.

“We’re working on that,” he said.

The Bison home opener isn’t until Sept. 7 against Bemidji State (Minn.). Until then, it’s five games on the road starting tonight against Idaho State in the Boise State Classic.

“We just want to get our team comfortable because we have a lot of girls who haven’t played in an NCAA game before,” Dyce said. “Basically, we want to get it all together, and learn to work and play together.”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia Kolpack is the host of the

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