The Georgia State Women’s soccer team seems poised for a run at the Sun Belt championship and a possible bid at the NCAA tournament.
The Sun Belt is filled with brand new additions in James Madison, Old Dominion and Marshall.
Last season, the team boasted a 9-4-7 record, with impressive victories against Kennesaw State and Davidson. After a strenuous regular season, the Panthers started their uphill battle in the Sun Belt tournament. In the opening round, Georgia State defeated eleventh-seeded Appalachian State 2-1.
Two days later, the journey to a title would end in the semifinal matchup against South Alabama. A goal in the 50th minute would be the decider and send the Panthers into an offseason surrounded by the retooling of their approach.
Before building upon the new season commenced, three Panthers were to be honored for their contribution to the team’s success. Forward Brooklyn Fugel earned second-team all-region honors after scoring seven goals and three assists during her freshman campaign.
Freshman Bree Barley earned third-team honors, contributing four goals and an assist. Barley was among the top freshman in the Sun Belt when it came to shots and shot accuracy.
Lexie Knox also earned third-team honors after giving it her all for the Panthers, logging over 1300 minutes on the field. On the defensive side, Knox contributed to five shutouts and even assisted twice.
“We are incredibly proud of Lexie, Bree and Brooklyn,” head coach Ed Joyce said. “They are more than deserving of these recognitions. Having three All-Region players for the first time, including two freshmen, shows where this program is headed in the future.”
During the offseason, Fugel and senior defender Eva Diez Louis were named to the All-Sun Belt preseason team.
The Sun Belt preseason poll placed the Panthers third in the east division behind two of the newcomers in James Madison and Old Dominion.
One final offseason move occurred when assistant Jack Merchant departed, accepting the head coach position at Georgia College. Coach Ed Joyce named graduate assistant T.K. Abderahman as Merchant’s replacement.
Now that all the housekeeping was completed, the time came for the season opener against Clayton State. In typical Georgia State fashion, the women’s soccer team made easy work of the visiting team, featuring goals from Diez, Anna Diaz and Brooke Hart. The Panthers had 30 shots compared to Clayton State’s one-shot attempt.
Next up, the squad would travel to Murray, Kentucky, and face a familiar foe in Murray State. The familiarity would work in the Panther’s favor with another goal from Diez and junior forward Maddie Johnston.
The Panthers returned home to face a very aggressive Chatanooga squad. The first half was scoreless, as both defenses were staunch and not allowing many shots. It wasn’t until Barley connected the ball to the back of the goal in the 58th minute that the Panthers held a 1-0 lead. The advantage would not last as Chatanooga equalized in the 87th minute, resulting in a draw.
The following match against Kennesaw State would result in another draw, with goals from Johnston and Diaz.
The matchup against Georgia would play out similarly to last year’s loss, as the Bulldogs came to Atlanta and netted three goals in a shoutout for the Panthers’ first loss of the season.
The Panthers would bounce back in the next two games beating Jacksonville State and Presbyterian, defeating both teams 3-0 and 1-0 respectively.
The match against Mercer would be the final non-conference game of the season and the final prep match before conference play. Josepha Vercammen and Callee Maughon both scored, giving the Panthers yet another draw on the season, bringing their record to 4-1-3.
A rematch of last year’s semifinal would be the first game the Georgia State would face in their first Sun Belt conference match. The game was a defensive slugfest, featuring five saves from junior goalkeeper Jaddah Foos, ultimately resulting in the fourth draw of the season.
The Panthers took on Louisiana and it was a heavily contested back-and-forth match. Midfielder Emily Glenn opened up scoring
in the 55th minute, her first collegiate goal.
The Rajin’ Cajuns fought back and scored goals in the 60th and 69th minute, putting the Panthers at a 2-1 deficit.
The deficit wouldn’t last as the Panthers pounced and caused Louisiana to score an own goal and secure their fourth draw this season.
Coastal Carolina was up next and the Panthers scored early and often. Two goals in the first half from Nieves and Barley put the team up 2-0 heading into the half.
The scoring kept on coming as lead goal scorer Maddie Johnston added her fourth on the season in the 52nd minute.
The Chanticleers would try to mount a comeback and would score in the 56th minute, but would fall short, giving the Panthers their fifth win of the season.
Georgia State will be back in action Sunday against Troy.