By: Collin Frazier
With the G-MAC tournament concluded, the next step in the Lady Oilers historic 2019 season is the postseason, the first time the team has reached the D-II national tournaments in school history.
However, the conference did not end the way Coach James Walker and the rest of the team wanted, with a 1-0 loss to Ohio Dominican University in the second round. This caught Walker off-guard.
“We’ve played Ohio Dominican four times in the last two years, and five if you count the spring game,” Walker said. “That was the first time we’ve lost in five games to them, but on the other occasions, I felt Ohio Dominican was the better team. Whereas actually this time when we played them, we were actually the better team and unfortunately, we lost the game. That was the first time in five games that we were the better team.”
Nevertheless, Walker is ready to learn and get ready for the postseason.
“I feel like we had a great season. We don’t base one week on what we’ve done all year,” Walker commented. “We regroup, [and] we refocus. The girls had a couple of days off revitalize and [get] ready to go for NCAA Tournament.”
Jayla Campbell, a first-year player for the Lady Oilers, agrees with Walker on getting refocused.
“We just need to bounce back stronger than ever and not let it affect our future games,” said Campbell.
Along with the historic run, the Lady Oilers also received two noteworthy honors for the conference. One being Walker winning G-MAC Head Coach of the Year.
“It feels good [winning coach of the year], but I’m blessed to have a great group of girls,” stated Walker. “It really is all about the players. I’m blessed to coach a really good of players that work hard. They come to work day-in, day-out; they’re invested in the program. The culture’s really good that they’ve created over the last two years. At my age, it doesn’t mean as much to me, but it speaks volumes for the kids I get to work with. I’m blessed.
Campbell credits Walker’s dedication to his accolade.
“He deserves it 100 percent,” she said. “He puts everything into this team every single day. He is a fantastic coach and an even better person!”
Not only did Walker received the Coach of the Year award for the conference, but Campbell also received the honor of winning G-MAC Freshman of the Year. She humbly credits her team for the award.
“It feels completely amazing,” stated Campbell. “I never even thought of something like that. I couldn’t have done it without this team.”
Walker couldn’t be prouder of Campbell while reassuring the other players that it is a team effort.
“She’s [Campbell] had a good year, as have a number of other players and we try to say to the girls all the time [that] individual awards are great, but it’s a team effort,” Walker commented.
“That’s the second year in a row we’ve had Rookie of the Year. Olivia Frank got it the year before, and Jayla Campbell got it this year, which means we’re obviously recruiting the right players. She’s [Campbell] surrounded by really good teammates. The future looks really bright. We’ve got a really young team mixed in with a bit of experience as well, so we’ve got a good balance and [we are] excited for the future.”
Both Frank and Campbell have shown their resilience and leadership on the soccer field, still giving it their all through injuries.
“The leadership’s been great this year,” said Walker. “The only slight setback is Olivia had an injury in the middle of the season, so she’s coming back and finding her footing again, but still had a solid year. Jayla’s knees have been bothering her a bit at this stage of the season…but [she’s] still playing and still grinding and working hard this year.”
Walker credits the coaching staff for all the support and hard work they put into the program.
“[I am] blessed with a great staff,” Walker stated. “When you’re talking about getting coach of the year, that’s not possible without a great staff. I’m really blessed and I’m fortunate to have a really good group to work with.”