Doherty boosts Dawgs

Vernon’s Paige Doherty competes in NCAA Division II women’s soccer action with the Southwestern Oklahoma State University Bulldogs.  - Photo Submitted
Vernon’s Paige Doherty competes in NCAA Division II women’s soccer action with the Southwestern Oklahoma State University Bulldogs.
— image credit: Photo Submitted

Paige Doherty spent the Christmas holidays visiting family and friends, skiing at Silver Star, running by Kalamalka Lake and taking in a Vipers hockey game.

It was a good time to savour and digest a sweet junior soccer season with the NCAA Division II Southwestern Oklahoma State University Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs won all their games except one, falling 3-0 to the No. 12 Central Missouri State Mules in the second round of the NCAA Central Regional Tournament in early November.

Oklahoma State, situated in Weatherford, population 11,000, finished 20-1-1 overall and 9-0-1 in Great American Conference play. Doherty, a 20-year-old VSS grad, scored four times and earned four assists on left wing. A junior, she’s been a starter every year.

She will never forget the pain of losing to Missouri Central.

“It was minus five and hailing and raining,” said Doherty. “The field was a mudpit and I had no raingear. We couldn’t warm up because the ball would get stuck in the mud. We play a possession game, but we couldn’t that day.”

Central Missouri took a 1-0 lead in the 19th minute, and connected again six minutes later.

The Bulldogs clipped the Ouachita Baptist Tigers of Arkansas 2-1 in the conference final. Doherty set up the opening Dawgs’ goal and then witnessed her roomie Josie Price’s winner.

“It was a beauty, top 90 (curving) on the right from just outside the 18. She was running around screaming and we all dogpiled her. Our whole school was there with lots of body paint and face paint. I wear No. 5 and there was one crazy fan who had my number painted on his back.”

The first winning season for the Bulldogs has sparked renewed interest in the team which is now fundraising to build new fences and player boxes at their home stadium.

Two years ago, as a freshman, Doherty and the Dawgs won just six games.

“The biggest difference was the upper classmen were all recruited by our coach (Mark Bersson) so it was his team. We had a strong bond and the seven upper classmen mediated things and said things within the team. Our rookies came in and we set down the law and said, ‘This is what we’re going to accomplish so take it seriously because we are.’ We had several girls sitting on the field, crying after that final game.”

Doherty said the Bulldogs, who have four Canadians, including senior captain and Conference Offensive Player of the Year Price, realized at 8-0 they had something special.

In the Conference playoffs, they shut down Mankato State 3-0 with Doherty pocketing the winner on a tap-in.

Price, a Calgary product, praised Doherty for her leadership skills.

“Paige brings something very unique and powerful to the team,” Price told The Morning Star. “Not only does Paige bring us speed and endurance on the outside midfield, but it is Paige who helped create the winning, optimistic and believing atmosphere. Paige would help get the team amped up before every game, encouraged each and every one of us to never give up and to push till the end.”

Price led the conference in scoring and ranked fourth in the nation in assists. Junior Kira Bertand,  of Brampton, Ont., claimed her second straight GAC Defender of the Year award. The GAC Freshman of the year award went to midfielder Ashlee Beitinger of Texas, who finished the regular season second in the league in assists.

Doherty, who led the Okanagan U16 Whitecaps in scoring and was a captain with the U21 squad, received Olympic Development Program recognition in Grade 12. She was added to the National Select pool that was be promoted to more than a 1,000 colleges.

The Bulldogs train daily for two hours, and in opening-season camp testing, the 5-foot-7 Doherty ran the two-miler in a scorching 13 minutes with the passing grade set at 16.

“Everybody gets along so well. I hang out with the freshmen more than the seniors. We had the freshmen sign covenants asking them to practise in the present and we had a no drinking during the season rule. We were all on the same page.

“I have learned so much in the experience of leaving home. I’ve learned so much about myself, how to stay focussed and driven and how to take care of myself and my body. I also learned I’m actually pretty smart when I apply myself.”

She returns home in May and will work all summer as a server at Alexander’s Beach Pub while working with personal trainers Sam and Gia Mowat.


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