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Feature: Georgia's Laura Eddy
The 2013-14 Southeastern Conference athletics year officially begins on Friday, when the 21st season of SEC soccer gets underway across the league.
Two SEC programs – Florida (No. 9) and Texas A&M (No. 12) are ranked among the nation’s top-25 to begin the season, according to the NSCAA/Continental Tire Preseason National Ranking.
Texas A&M was predicted to win to the 2013 SEC title in a preseason vote of the league’s 14 head coaches. The Aggies earned eight first-place votes, narrowly topping Florida’s six votes. Four Aggies return for the 2013 season after earning All-SEC honors last year, including three first team all-conference selections – goalkeeper Jordan Day, forward Annie Kunz and defender/midfielder Meghan Streight.
For the 10th time in league history the SEC Soccer Tournament returns to Orange Beach, Ala., and the 2013 edition of the event will take place November 4-10 at the Orange Beach SportsPlex.
Opening Weekend Schedule
August 23 (Friday)
Kentucky at Wake Forest - 6:30 p.m. ET
Florida Gulf Coast at Florida - 7:00 p.m. ET
UNC-Wilmington at South Carolina - 7:00 p.m. ET
Oklahoma at Tennessee - 7:30 p.m. ET
Pacific at Missouri - 6:30 p.m. CT
Kansas at Arkansas - 7:00 p.m. CT
Clemson at Auburn - 7:00 p.m. CT
Louisiana Tech at LSU - 7:00 p.m. CT
Louisiana-Lafayette at Ole Miss - 7:00 p.m. CT
Mississippi State at South Alabama - 7:00 p.m. CT
UAB at Vanderbilt - 7:00 p.m. CT
Georgia at Texas - 8:00 p.m. ET
Duke at Texas A&M - 7:30 p.m. CT
August 25 (Sunday)
Alabama at Wake Forest - Noon CT
Auburn at Florida State - Noon CT
Utah at Kentucky - 1:00 p.m. ET
SMU at Arkansas - 1:00 p.m. CT
Arkansas State at Mississippi State - 1:00 p.m. CT
Missouri at Memphis - 1:00 p.m. CT
Oklahoma State at Vanderbilt - 1:00 p.m. CT
Georgia at Houston - 2:00 p.m. ET
Oregon State at Florida - 7:00 p.m. ET
Duke at South Carolina - 7:00 p.m. ET
Tennessee at Samford - 7:00 p.m. ET
Ole Miss at UAB - 7:00 p.m. CT
UTSA at Texas A&M - 7:00 p.m. CT
Alabama returns 12 letterwinners and eight starters from last season’s team. The team boasts only four seniors in 2013, while 15 members of the squad are either sophomores (5) or freshmen (10). The Crimson Tide returns its top six scorers from last season in terms of points and goals scored. Highlighting the list of returning scorers is junior Pia Rijsdijk (7g, 6a/20 pts), sophomore Katie Bourgeois (8g, 3a/19 pts), senior Molly Atherton (6g, 4a/16 pts) and junior Theresa Diederich (7g, 1a/15 pts). Alabama finished the 2012 season with a school record 357 total shots on the season. Furthermore, UA’s 155 shots on goal (3rd), 1.95 goals per game average (7th) and 37 goals (9th) all rank among the top-10 in program lore.
The Razorbacks are coming off their best Southeastern Conference season in school history when they won six league games and advanced to the SEC Tournament. Arkansas won its first two games in program history against ranked opponents last season. Arkansas returns 68 percent of its scoring from a year ago including three of its top four goal scorers, its entire back line and goalkeeper. Sophomore Ashleigh Ellenwood was named to the SEC All-Freshman team in 2012 after tying for the team lead with 13 points as a first-year player.
Auburn advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the seventh straight time and the 11th time overall in 2012. Auburn’s 11 NCAA Tournament berths is the third-most among SEC teams behind only Texas A&M (18) and Florida (16) and its seven straight is also third-best behind Texas A&M (18) and Florida (10). The Tigers return 11 letterwinners from last season including five players who logged 1,400 minutes or more. Auburn will have 10 newcomers, with eight freshmen and a pair of transfers. Auburn’s signing class was ranked the 20th-best in the nation by TopDrawerSoccer.com and third-best in the SEC behind Georgia and Texas A&M.
Two who have earned NSCAA All-South Region and All-SEC honors return in 2013 – defenders Taylor Travis and Christen Westphal. Travis was part of the 2010 All-South Region and All-SEC second teams while Westphal was an All-SEC second team and All-South Region third-team selection in 2012. Two of Florida’s top four point contributors return from the 2012 season – juniors Havana Solaun (7 goals, 8 assists, 22 points) and Annie Speese (6 goals, 4 assists, 16 points).
Georgia returns 15 letterwinners and six regular starters from the 2012 campaign, in addition to welcoming in 17 newcomers. Highlighting the returning group is senior All-SEC and All-Region defender Torri Allen, while the Bulldogs also return their top four most productive offensive players from a season ago in Nicole Locandro, Bella Hartley, Meghan Gibbons, and Madeline Barker. Head coach Steve Holeman - entering his fourth season at Georgia and 20th overall - needs just four wins to notch 200 for his career. Among the 17 newcomers are two Gatorade high school state players of the year in Rachel Garcia (Georgia) and Marion Crowder (Mississippi). Georgia will play six games against last year's NCAA Tournament field, and will play 11 games at home.
Kentucky will be returning nine of 11 starters from the 2012 team that captured the program’s first-ever NCAA Tournament win. Ten of 12 players who scored a goal for the Wildcats in 2012 will return to play for the 2013 season. UK Soccer will be opening up a new stadium, as the multi-million dollar UK Soccer Complex will commence with new state-of-the-art seats, press box, team locker rooms, lounge area and more. The Wildcats 2013 fall schedule, which will feature eight non-conference games, 11 Southeastern Conference games, 10 home matches at the newly-renovated UK Soccer Complex, and six matches against NCAA Tournament teams from a year ago.
The Tigers return their top two goal scorers from a year ago as junior midfielder Alex Arlitt and sophomore winger Fernanda Pina each netted four goals to guide the offensive attack during the 2012 season. Pina also dished out four assist to tie as the team's leading point scorer with 12 points during her freshman season. The Tigers feature senior leadership on each level of the field as they will be guided by the likes of midfielder Alex Ramsey, defender Addie Eggleston and goalkeeper Megan Kinneman during the 2013 season. The Tigers are also excited to welcome one of the nation's premier recruiting classes to campus this fall as each of the five members of their Class of 2013 have earned starting experience at the FIFA Women's World Cup at the Under-17 and Under-20 levels.
Ole Miss returns 16 letter-winners and nine starters from the 2012 team that advanced to the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament and posted the best start in school history at 8-0. Returning to help lead the Rebels are 2012 All-SEC performers Rafaelle Souza and Mandy McCalla, who tied for the league lead a year ago in goals (13) and points (33). Junior Kelly McCormick returns in goal for the Rebels after posting eight shutout victories a year ago, including a stretch of four consecutive shutouts and a school record 483 consecutive shutout minutes in goal. The Rebels’ returning players in 2013 accounted for 41-of-45 goals scored a year ago as part of a team that welcomed 10 newcomers to the squad. Ole Miss also adds nine new players, including seven All-State selections, to the roster for the upcoming season
Mississippi State opens its 19th season of soccer action Friday when it travels to Mobile to meet South Alabama. The contest also marks the debut of Aaron Gordon as the Bulldogs’ fourth head coach. State completes the season’s opening weekend Sunday, hosting Arkansas State in the 2013 home opener. The Bulldogs hit the pitch for the first time Friday, hosting South Florida in an exhibition contest. Senior Elisabeth Sullivan, a 2012 All-SEC second team selection, found the back of the net in the fourth minute, but USF struck the equalizer in the 63rd minute. Junior goalkeeper CJ Winship split halves with freshman Meara Johnson. Winship registered five saves in 45 scoreless minutes, while Johnson surrendered a goal and made two saves in 55 minutes.
Mizzou returns 15 letterwinners and eight starters from last season’s 14-7-1 squad that earned the program’s fifth NCAA Tournament berth. The team’s 14 wins a year ago are the second-most in program history. The Tigers also return three players who earned All-SEC honors and two who received All-NSCAA All-South Region accolades. Seniors Alyssa Diggs and Dominique Richardson were both All-SEC first team selections in 2012, while Candace Johnson earned a spot on the All Freshman Team. Richardson was named to the NSCAA All-South Region second team and Diggs was selected to the third team. Redshirt junior goalkeeper McKenzie Sauerwein anchors the Missouri defense for the third straight season. She has started 41 games the past two seasons and boasts a career goals against average of 1.18.
Twenty letterwinners, including nine starters from last season's squad, are joined by 11 newcomers for the 2013 season. South Carolina returns 84.5 percent of their scoring from 2012, including senior Danielle Au who led the Gamecocks in points and goals. Sabrina D'Angelo, a two-time All-SEC honoree and the 2011 SEC Freshman and Co-Defensive Player of the Year, will anchor the Gamecock defense for the third-consecutive year. In two seasons, she has a 0.99 GAA in 38 games played, posting 130 saves and seven shutouts. D'Angelo was named the 2012 Canadian U-20 Female Player of the Year. In her 13th season as South Carolina's head coach, Shelley Smith is aiming for a sixth NCAA Tournament appearance in seven years. Smith is 138-89-32 at South Carolina.
Tennessee heads into its second season under head coach Brian Pensky with 17 returning players from a 2012 team that went 14-5-3, took third in the SEC with a 9-3-1 league mark and finished 18th in the final NCAA Women’s Soccer RPI. UT returns its top two points leaders (17 each) in junior Hannah Wilkinson, a 2013 NSCAA All-American and first team All-SEC honoree, and senior Caroline Brown. Wilkinson’s eight goals in just 16 games played led the team and Brown paced the squad with seven assists to go with five goals. Tennessee boasted one of the nation's elite defenses last season. The team's 0.69 goals-against average set a new program record and the Lady Vols recorded 11 shutouts. UT also produced the longest shutout streak in school history with 533:22 of scoreless defense from Aug. 19 through Sept. 9.
Head Coach G Guerrieri enters his 21st season at the helm of A&M soccer and is the only head coach in program history. Guerrieri and North Carolina's Anson Dorrance are the only two head coaches to appear in every NCAA Tournament since 1995. A&M earned its 18th-consecutive NCAA Tournament berth in 2012, ending their season at 19-5-1 after making the 11th Sweet Sixteen appearance in school annals. The Aggies are one of five teams to make it to every NCAA Championship since 1995. The other schools include North Carolina (1982-2012), Notre Dame (1993-2012), Virginia (1994-2012) and Penn State (1995-2012). Texas A&M’s 19 wins in 2012 was one shy of the school record of 20 set in 2002 (20-5-1).
In Head Coach Derek Greene's third season at the helm of the Commodore women's soccer program, his squad returns a total of 192 starts (out of a possible 220 games started last season). Last year's freshmen class accounted for 85 of those games started, and the expectation is that those sophomores will be a big part of the team's plans again this year. In goal, the Commodores are hopeful that redshirt-junior Alexa Levick, who had three shutouts last year after posting five in her freshman campaign, can build on a successful offseason that included playing the Maccabiah Games in July.