Roll It Out, Soccer Starts Thursday
> The Cougs enter the 2021 season looking to reestablish themselves among the elite in college soccer having returned 22 veterans to go along with 12 newcomers.
> WSU plays an Arkansas State squad that is the reigning Sun Belt regular season champions. The two teams have never met on the field prior to Thursday night.
> WSU is 25-5-2 all-time in season openers and 21-8-3 all-time record in home openers.
> WSU was picked 5th by the Pac-12 coaches in the preseason poll marking the third-straight year picked in the top half of the conference.
> Elyse Bennett returns to lead the attack after scoring six goals in the shortened spring season. WSU returns 13 of 17 goals scored from a season ago.
> The Cougs non-conference schedule ranks as the fifth toughest schedule among Pac-12 teams entering the year beginning with Sun Belt champ Arkansas State.
> Under head coach Todd Shulenberger, the Cougs have gone 40-14-7 at home in six seasons including going 4-0-3 last season.
> 5th year Brianna Alger and senior transfer Sydney Studer enter the year as the most decorated players on the roster having each earned all-region honors (Alger in 2019, Studer in 2020-21 while at OSU).
> 10 of WSU's 11 starters return for 2021 with the only losses being All-Pac-12 midfielder Makamae Gomera-Stevens. Additionally, WSU will have to replace 5th year Aaqila McLyn who suffered an injury at the start of preseason camp.
> 5th years return as the most decorated class in program history having won 45 games (in four seasons) while advancing to at least the second round in each of their first three years, a program first.
> Defense is ready to dominate led by the centerback tandem of senior Mykiaa Minniss and junior Bridget Rieken. Last season the defense posted five shutouts and in two seasons with Minniss and Rieken in the middle WSU has recorded 14 shutouts and 22 wins.
COUGS VS RED WOLVES
The Cougs open the season against an Arkansas State team that has never lined up against WSU in program history. The Red Wolves are coming off an 11-win 2021 spring season in which they took home the progam's first Sun Belt regular season title. This year's team was picked to finish second while sweeping the preseason awards thanks to senior forward Sarah Sodoma earning Offensive POY honors and senior goalkeeper Megan McClure taking home Defensive POY. Both Sodoma and McClure have rewritten the Red Wolves record books with Sodoma the career leader in points (72), goals (29), game-winning goals (8), shots (183) and shots on goal (104 while McClure in the all-time career leader in wins (23), goals-against average (0.94) and shutouts (22).
The Cougs opened their 2021 season with a 2-0 exhibition victory over Idaho in their lone tuneup contest of the preseason. WSU made the most of its set pieces scoring a pair of goals off of corners with Bridget Rieken knocking in the opener in the 7' while Sydney Pulver scored directly off the corner in the 85' to secure the exhibition win.
SEASON OPENING SUCCESS
Throughout the years the Cougs have been successful in season openers having posted an impressive 25-5-2 record. WSU has won each of its last three season openers and is unbeaten in four. In the last three season openers the Cougs have outscored their opponents 9-2 including a 2-1 win at Seattle U last spring.
HOME SWEET HOME
Playing at the friendly confines of Lower Soccer Field to begin the season, the Cougs are looking to keep their run of success at home as they are unbeaten in their last seven in Pullman.
In the last four years the Cougs have gone 24-6-5 at Lower Soccer Field while outscoring their opponents 79-to-31 including posting 12 shutouts.
Last season, the Cougs were 4-0-3 at home (in the IPF and Lower Soccer Field) having outscored their opponent 13-to-4 with four shutouts.
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