Inside UH soccer’s historic season start
Any team that wants to compete at a high level must play hard and have trust in one another. For the Houston Cougars soccer team this year, that seems to be no issue.
The Cougars set a program record by opening the season 6-0-1 after winning six consecutive games to start the year. The streak outperforms the team’s 5-0-1 start in 2021, which went on to win 13 games in that season, a program record.
Building trust with new teammates
Since the end of the 2022 campaign, Houston has added 14 new players, including junior midfielder Alexis Fowlkes, who played in 17 games at Texas Tech for two seasons prior.
With so many new faces, the squad used the summer to build friendships and relationships among one another.
“On weekends we would try to do team-bonding activities,” Fowlkes said. “We drove down to Galveston one weekend as a team and all went down there for a day, and we went country dancing one time which was really fun. Having those connections, the chemistry and knowing that they’ll work back for me when I work back for them is great.”
Along with Fowlkes, another one of the 14 additions is sophomore forward, Cameryn Maddox, who is the team’s leading goal scorer thus far. She departed from the University of San Diego after playing in 18 games with 16 starts last year, where she was named to the All-West Coast Conference Freshman team.
“Our team camaraderie, team chemistry and us just being super comfortable with each other definitely plays a big part of why we’ve gotten off to this hot start,” Maddox said. “We’re all just super close, and we just want to play for each other.”
Formula to success
Houston’s head coach, Jaime Frias, is the foundation of this year’s squad. Prior to Houston, Frias worked at Virginia for ten seasons as the director of operations from 2010-2013 and two stints as an assistant coach from 2013-2016 and 2019-2022. Frias also had stints coaching with the U-20 and U-18 U.S. Women’s National teams.
After former head coach Diego Bocanegra’s retirement in 2022, Frias was appointed head coach of the Houston soccer team and has worked to better the program ever since.
After finishing 6-7-3 last year in his first year as head coach for the Cougars, Frias is liking the improvement he’s seeing from everybody on the roster as they continue their hot start.
“I feel like the improvement of our players has really helped us get on the right foot so early on in the season,” Frias said. “Not only from the ones that were already here, but even the new ones. They’ve taken on the coaching and their work ethic is phenomenal.”
Frias has an ongoing influence on his team and his ability to develop players is what drew many of the team’s transfers to Houston.
“I definitely knew when I came in as a transfer, I came here because of him,” Fowlkes said of Frias. “He wants to develop everyone, not just specific players.”
Heading into the Big 12
The Cougars hope to maintain their momentum and confidence as they enter a tough Big 12 conference.
On Thursday, UH will face Texas Tech in UH’s first Big 12 matchup in any sport.
For former Red Raiders in Fowlkes and goalkeeper Olivia Dietrich, it will be anticipated homecoming in the team’s Big 12 opener.
“It’s going to be good to go back there, and it’s fun to play there,” Fowlkes said. “It’s a little nerve-racking for me and Liv (Olivia Dietrich), but we’re excited.”
When entering a conference like the Big 12, a team must be physically and emotionally prepared, and this team believes they are up for the task.
“We have to keep doing what we’ve been doing, and just raise the level even higher.” Maddox said. “If we keep doing that then I think we’ll be successful in conference play.”