The Georgia State women’s soccer team is coming off one of its best seasons in school history, after finishing second in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. The Panthers catapulted to the Sun Belt Conference Championship after pulling upsets over No. 3 Texas State and No. 2 Troy. Being one win away from a conference title last season, means this upcoming season the team should only hope to get back to the same position as last year. However is it as easy as it sounds?
- New Head Coach Alert: The Panthers have been busy this offseason with a lot of new pieces coming to the team including newly hired head coach Ed Joyce. Joyce was the former Georgia State men’s soccer assistant coach back in the 2013 season before taking an assistant coach job at Campbell University. During his tenure in Campbell, he doubled the team’s win total from last year and gave the team their first winning season since 2012 finishing 10-9 overall. Joyce was involved in the Panthers first berth in the NCAA College Cup’s main draw in 2011. The Panthers finished that season 13-8-1 to record the school’s most victories in 25 years while posting nine shutouts. Look for Joyce to keep the Panthers on the right track to duplicate what they did last year with the difference being a Sun Belt Conference title.
- And then there were four: Coming off a spectacular season last year, the Panthers only have four starters returning from that team. To make matters worse, the Panthers lost 10 seniors as well leaving this team essentially gutted. The four remaining starters are:
- Suzanne Arafa: Forward who led the team in goals last season with nine and led the team with five assists. She was the 2015 MVP and made it to the 2015 All-Sun Belt First Team, 2015 Sun Belt All-Tournament team and NSCAA All-South Region Third Team.
- Amanda Bruemmer: Started and played every minute of all 21 games last season at the left back position. The leader defender on the team, and was an integral part of a four game stretch last season where only one goal was allowed. Won majority of her 1 v 1 battles.
- Kenzie Winters: Started in all 21 games last season and was the main anchor for the defensive line, winning majority of her aerial battles. She was one of the first lines of defense for the team. She was also part of the 2015 Sun Belt All-Tournament Team Selection.
- Taina Anglade: Had 16 starts in the 19 games she played in with over 1,400 minutes of play. She had 11 shots on the season and had the fourth best shot on goal average on the team with a .636 percentage.
- It’s raining freshmen: After losing 10 seniors and returning only four starters, the Panthers had to recruit in order to build the team back up and they did just that. The Panthers signed eight freshmen to the team and one transfer student. With so much new young talent brought in, look for some of these freshmen players to become starters right away. The newcomers:
- Transfer Student: Siobhan Wilson, a two-year starter at Hutchinson Community College. Last season was named to the 2015 All-Conference First-Team, All-Region Second-Team, and Defensive MVP of the Year.
- Kendall Alvey: Loganville High School goalkeeper and started every game of her career in goal. Named to the Region 8-AAAAA “Best IX” All-Region First Team.
- Lily Barron: Forward/Midfield for Northgate High School and was part of the All County Team and Region 4-AAAAA All-Region First Team her sophomore, junior and senior year.
- Isabelle Grest: Center back/outside back for Buford High School and was the Most Valuable Defender in 2015.
- Alex Melnyk: Center back from South Forsyth High School and went to the state playoffs her junior and senior year.
- Erin Rhodes: Center back/midfield from Northview High School and was named to the 2015 GHSA All-Star Team.
- Mikella Rodriguez: Center back/midfield from Eagles Landing High School and scored 56 goals in three years.
- Brooke Shank: Center midfielder from Vista Ridge High School and was named to the 2016 All District Team Offensive MVP and the UIL 4-AAAAA State All-Tournament Team.
- Brie Smith: Forward from Buford High School and was named to the 2014 and 2015 High School Region First Team. Won a region championship as well.
With a new head coach, four returning starters and nine new additions, the Panthers look to repeat the same success they had last year. The Panthers started the season off with two exhibition games to give the freshmen some college experience before they started the real season.
“These exhibition matches are a great opportunity for the younger girls on the squad to get used to playing D1 soccer,” Coach Joyce said in a press conference.
The young Panthers did just that and came out looking fierce and competitive. In those two exhibition games, the Panthers won the first 1-0 against Lipscomb and tied the second game 1-1 against Austin Peay with freshman Rhodes scoring the tying goal.
“It was good to get another 90 minutes in under our belts. It’s always great to see a freshman with a goal, and Erin really earned it,” Joyce said after the second exhibition game in a post-game conference.
With the exhibition games out of the way, the Panthers began their regular season at home against Alabama State. The Panthers defeated the Hornets 3-0 with goals from senior Alexis Thomas, freshman Shank and senior Callie O’Connor. The Panthers had 22 shots in the game compared to the Hornets five, with all of their five shots coming in the second half.
“It was good to get a win in the first game of the season, and it was great to see some of the things we’ve been working on come together at the end,” head coach Joyce said in a post game conference.
The Panthers are currently in the midst of three consecutive non-conference games at home. After that the Panthers will have a tough four game road stretch with the last two games of that stretch being conference games. The rest of the Panthers games will be conference games with no more than two road games in a row. With the Panthers having seven games under their belt before their first conference game, they should be well accustomed to their new team and the freshman will have enough experience to give them a chance at getting some important conference wins this season.