A tough battle is on the cards for women’s soccer in the Southern Conference. Defending champion Samford will be strong again, but the Alabama school will face no shortage of challengers wishing to claim the league title for themselves.
Following is a look at key returning players for each program.
Brief Conference Bio
2011 Conference Champions: Samford
2011 Conference Tournament Champions: Samford
Conference Player of the Year: Rachel Shelnutt, Furman
Freshman of the Year: Becca Fisher, Davidson
Coach of the Year: Todd Yelton, Samford
Teams (2011 overall/conference record)
Goalkeeper extraordinaire Alyssa Whitehead is now playing professionally in Sweden, so one big task for coach Todd Yelton will be to replace her. In the field, Jordan Johnson and Ariane Luckens transfer in from Florida State and South Carolina respectively.
Other key returnees include Adrianne Mancino, Trine Taule, Lindsey Hansen, Shanika Thomas, Joy Grove and Michelle Moll.
UNC Greensboro 8-10-1/7-3-1
Top scorer Kristin Player is gone from Steve Nugent’s squad, but UNCG will return Tinna Bergthorsdottir, Karin Sendel, Stephanie Partenheimer and Lauren Lover.
Andrew Burr’s Paladins figure to mount a strong title bid, with a good cast of newcomers and returning starters, including Alyssa Althoff, Ali Simpson, Catie Moore, Indian Robinson, Dee Makris and Hannah Stanifer. Furman will have to find someone to score goals however, as Rachel Shelnutt leaves following her conference MVP season.
Appalachian State 6-11-2/2-7-2
Leading returnees for Sarah Strickland’s Mountaineers include Hannah Coad, Meggie Graham, Julia Holz, Sam McVeigh and Nicole Steyl.
UT Chattanooga 6-10-2/1-9-1
J.D. Kyzer is back for his 13th season directing the Moccasins and will look to shore up a defense that yielded 44 goals in 2011.
Offense is a brighter picture, starting with Becca Smith who knocked in 16 goals last yearn. Also back are Crystal Mackezyk and Kelsey Swann.
The Citadel 5-11-3/3-6-2
The 1-2 scoring punch of Vanessa Aponte and Mariana Garcia return for Bob Winch’s team. Some of the guts and goo positions will have to be replaced however, although Grace Raines and Ruth Leiva will help provide some spine.
College of Charleston 13-8-1/7-3-1
Christian Michner’s Cougars returnees include Sarah Cardamone, Francesca Kentimenos, Katie Kerr and Sarah Schaidel.
The Wildcats return Rachel Newmister, Carly Brahim, Stephanie Piperno and Julie Calhoun as Greg Ashton enters his 9th year at the helm of the program.
For the Phoenix, a lot of experience returning could mean moving to the better side of .500 for coach Chris Neal in 2012.
Clair O’Keeffe, Olivia Mackey, Jennifer McGorty, Catherine Brinkman and Bethany Houpt are just some of the players with plenty of college playing time already under their belts.
Georgia Southern 7-11-2/4-6-1
For the Eagles of Lindsey Vanderspiegel, Carly Storey, McKenna Storey, Zoe Van Gorder, Courtney Collins and Alex Murphy are among the key players returning from last season.
Western Carolina 9-10-1/4-7-0
Chad Miller’s Catamounts were also around the .500 mark overall last season, and will be looking to move into the black results-wise for 2012.
Top players include Laura Greb, Tara Budnick, Samantha Hodge and Mackenzie Cole are among leading returnees.
Amy Kiah’s Terriers return some experienced players including Jewel Kawamoto, Chelsea Ashworth, Maggie Bosley, Emily Bougas and Erin Stephenson.