The fall season was one to remember for Georgia State’s women’s soccer team as they finished second in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. The Panthers entered the tournament as the sixth seed and beat No. 2 Troy and No. 3 Texas State. The fall squad has 16 players returning for the spring season and have added seven new signees to the roster.
Meet the new players
- Kendall Alvey: Alvey is a goalkeeper from Loganville High School who was named to the Region 8-AAAAA her junior year. She started varsity all four years at the goalkeeper position and also played for the Oconee Football club under Coach Dante Trevino. Look for her help protect the net for the Panthers since in the fall season they gave up at least 1.38 goals per game and a 51 percent shot on goal.
- Lily Barron: Barron is a forward/midfielder who was voted the 2013 offensive player of the year. She was named to the All County Team and the 4-AAAAA All-Region First Team in 2013, 2014, and 2015. She played for the Concorde Fire ECNL club under Coach Gregg Blassingame. In addition Barron is a clutch player as she scored the game-winning goal at the state championship game. Look for Barron to add even more offensive power to the team with Suzanne Arafa and Ashley Nagy.
- Isabelle Grest: Grest is a center back that can also play outside back, and is a four-year letter winner at Buford High School. She was voted the Most Valuable Defender in 2015 and has made it to the Final Four, Sweet 16, and Elite 8 in three different seasons. She also played for the Atlanta Fire United under Coach Dom Martelli. She has championship experience and brings a defensive edge in for the Panthers.
- Alex Melnyk: Melnyk is a center back from South Forsyth High School and is a three-year letter winner. She played for Concorde Fire ENCL club and went to the state playoffs in 2014 and 2015. Look for her to be a player that provides depth for the team as the season goes on until she gains more experience.
- Erin Rhodes: Rhodes is a forward/midfield player from Northview High School who was named to the 2015 Georgia High School Association All-State Team. She was also voted Northview High School 2015 Offensive Player of the Year. She’s been to the Elite 8 twice in her career and went to the 2015 first-round playoffs. She played forward for the Atlanta Fire United under Coach Dom Martelli. Look for her to add even more depth to this already high powered offensive soccer team.
- Mikella Rodriguez: Rodriguez is a versatile soccer player that can play center back and midfield. She’s from Eagles Landing High School and also played club soccer for Concorde Fire ENCL under Coach Blassingame. She won the 2013 Defensive Player Award, All-County Defender in 2013 and 2014, and earned the 2015 Golden Eagle Award and was voted MVP. In addition, she also scored 56 goals in three years. Being able to score and play outstanding defense is the perfect dual threat that the Panthers could use on the roster.
- Brie Smith: Smith is a forward from Buford High School. She was named to the 2013 All-Region Second Team, 2014 8-AAAA All-State Team MVP, and the 2014 and 2015 High School Region First Team. She has playoff experience playing in the Final Four in 2013, Sweet 16 in 2014, and made it to the Elite 8 in 2015 and won the region championship that year as well. She played club soccer for Concorde Fire under Coach James Harris and played for the Atlanta Fire United ENCL under coach Dom Martelli. Look for her to add more experience to the team as she has played for more than one club unlike the other signees.
This group of signees is a spectacular squad that fits perfectly with what the soccer team needs, but they will have to do it without head coach Derek Leader. Derek Leader has recently left the team to become the head coach of Grand Canyon University. The team is still looking for their head coach and a new staff and can’t start up any practices until the position has been filled. This could end up resulting in a rough start in the spring season as these new recruits will have less practice time with the team.
However, due to the strength of the recruiting class, most of the signees should be fine despite the anticipated late start. Five of the signees have playoff experience playing for their representative high schools.
Smith, Rhodes, and Grest have all played for Coach Martelli. Rodriguez and Barron are two more players who have played for the same coach in club competition, with Coach Blassingame. This chemistry and awareness may smooth the transition between coaches for the new members of the team.
It’s hard to predict how the Panthers will do this upcoming spring season without a head coach yet, but all of these new signees are impact players that will only contribute to the already stacked roster. The team will open the spring season against University of Georgia on March 1.