SHAWNEE—The last time the Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU) women’s soccer team was featured in the Baptist Messenger the Lady Bison were serving in Brazil during the FIFA World Cup, laying the ground work for the International Mission Board with a week-long mission project prior to the world’s popular sporting event.
Five months later, OBU completed its final season of NAIA competition, winning the Sooner Athletic Conference championship and qualifying for the NAIA National Championship. Both are the Lady Bison’s first-ever postseason achievements.
“I don’t think we could have closed out the season any better with the NAIA,” said OBU head coach Mike White. “It gives the impression to those who want to come play at OBU that we are on the rise, and we will need to be on the rise as we move to (NCAA) Division II. I hope this will also build confidence in the players who are returning.”
White said the season ended “bittersweet” for the Lady Bison, losing at Martin Methodist in Pulaski, Tenn., 1-0, in the NAIA Opening Round, on Nov. 22. The match was scoreless until the Redhawks scored on a penalty kick in the 64th minute.
Freshman forward Mikayla Lowery nearly scored four minutes into the second half. She outran the entire Redhawks defense, taking a shot from inside the 18-yard box. Goalkeeper Jhani Williams made a difficult diving save to keep the match level at 0-0.
“The girls played really well. They were playing their best soccer at the right time. I’m grateful for the girls who committed a lot to the season,” White said.
Much can be attributed to this successful season for the Lady Bison and how much improvement the team has made. Three years ago, OBU lost to Martin Methodist, 6-0. White said it was a culmination of figuring things out, finding the “right recipe of talent and heart.” Ultimately, though, White knew the best answer for the success: “All of it came under God’s guidance.”
Not only does White know that God deserves the credit, but many of his players have also grown to understand how their talents and abilities, as well as their successes, are all due to God’s direction. A few of them, White believes, grew in this understanding while they were serving on the mission trip in Brazil.
“They were profoundly affected in many ways,” said White, who had 10 of his players on the Brazilian trip. “I feel (the trip) was a piece of the puzzle that helped strengthen them and their understanding of soccer being a gift to them and to be used for His glory.”
White reflected on the season from the perspective of his senior players, including Taler Campbell, Ashley Guthrie, Allie Preston and Marta Venegas. “They have been through a lot. Each and every one of these girls are different than when they first came in. They have stuck through so much, and I was very happy for them that they saw the fruit of their labors. They are great group of girls who take care of business both on and off the field. They showed leadership in matters of faith as well.”
On the night before the final match against Martin Methodist, the Lady Bison met together to look back and think about the season, as well as the players’ time at OBU, and share how God was a part of it.
“We had a time of reflecting how God has had His hand in the last four years of bringing us to this point, of what we perceived of having difficulties and challenges, losing girls to various reasons, including injuries,” said White. He said one player experienced a “life-changing event” that held her out of soccer for a year, but she claimed she would not be playing if not for this experience.
“It was a sweet time of remembering how God has been through the whole process,” White said about the team meeting the night before the final match.
Through the summer experience on the mission field, as well as a victorious season this fall, the Lady Bison had memorable moments that can help develop the team for next year. But just as they make their plans, the Lord will determine their steps (Prov. 16:9).