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DAHLONEGA, GA - The North Georgia women's soccer team opens up the regular season this weekend with Lees-McRae at home on Friday and Mount Olive on the road Sunday. Both opponents are representatives of the Conference Carolinas and each finished last season with successful campaigns.
Lees-McRae College Bobcats
Body of Work
Last season: 14-6 (8-2 conference)
Conference Finish: 2nd (three-way tie)
Conference Prediction in 2011: 3rd
Goal Differential Last Season: +34
Expectations - The Bobcats are predicted to finish third in a conference they lost by a game last season. Lees-McRae is returning three CC All-Conference performers off a team that outshot opponents last year 400-138. Having their top three scorers returning is a huge confidence boost for Lees-McRae.
Good News - MaryBeth Sullivan returns to a lineup where she torched the Carolinas for 14 goals and nine assists. Sullivan was honored for her points, earning First-Team All-Conference along with NCAA Division II All-Southeast Region Second-Team honors. Sullivan is only a sophomore, so the future sure looks bright for this young striker.
Vickie Rich comes into her senior year after earning Second- and First-Team All-Conference honors the last two seasons. Rich scored 11 goals last season, which was second on the team. The Bobcats also bring back Brooke Santerre, another first-teamer last year, who added 8 goals for Lees-McRae.
Bad News - Lees-McRae must face the challenge of finding a new reliable goalkeeper after the loss of Brittany Bolton, who started all 20 games for the Bobcats last season. Bolton was a rock, allowing only a goal a game and leading the Bobcats in every game. The goals will come for Lees-McRae this season; it's on the defensive side of the pitch where they need to play well to get positive results.
Saints vs. Bobcats - North Georgia handled Lees-McRae last season on the road, 5-2. But this Bobcat team is a year more experienced and has every intention of coming into Dahlonega and beating the Saints on their home turf. Both teams are predicted to finish third in their conference respectively, but it's the strength of the PBC compared to the Conference Carolinas that will shed the result Friday afternoon.
Mount Olive College Trojans
Body of Work
Last season: 10-8-1 (6-4 conference)
Conference Finish: 5th
Conference Prediction in 2011: 5th
Goal Differential Last Season: +22
Expectations - The Trojans have virtually their whole defense back, something other schools in the conference can't say. Being picked to finish fifth in this league has to come as a surprise to both the players and the coaches of Mount Olive. With their top three scorers returning from last season to bolster the already strong defense, the Trojans would tell you they expect a higher finish in conference than what they've been given.
Good News - With Tia Rose, Caroline Smith, Patrice Clarke and goalkeeper Lyndsey McIntyre all returning for another season on the defensive side, the goals will be hard to come by for opponents. On the other side of the pitch, leading scorer Sarah Porter is returning for just her sophomore season after scoring a stunning 20 goals last season. It gets better for Mount Olive, second leading scorer (10 goals) and team assist leader (13) Lindsey Stanley is also back on the field. The roster is well rounded and loaded with experience and talent for head coach Matt Hisler and his expectations have to be high. The Trojans have good things to come this season.
Bad News - The Trojans didn't garner too much respect from the rest of the conference being picked to finish fifth, something they can use to their advantage. A good start to the season will be challenging for the Trojans to come by as they play two of the top four teams in the PBC to start off the year. Mount Olive committed 158 fouls last year compared to their opponents 117, allowing for more scoring opportunities for the opposition. The fouls have to come down, or the opponents are bound to capitalize more than they did last season.
Saints vs. Trojans - Both teams bring back experience from last season as well as scoring. The game has all indications of being a shootout with both teams scoring plenty of goals last season and attempting a lot of shots. The game will be the second in three days for the Saints and the first of the season for the Trojans. Accuracy of the shots may decide this outcome, whoever finishes more of their chances will most likely be satisfied come the 90th minute.
As always, be sure to follow all the Saints action on the web at www.SaintsSports.com and Twitter at @SaintsSports. Friday's game against Lees-McRae at 4:00 p.m. will be the home event of the year for North Georgia athletics. The sports communications office will provide a free live video broadcast of the event and live in-game statistics of all the action. Students who attend the game on Friday and bring their Saints Card will receive a free Loyal Blue t-shirt. Stay tuned all year for updates on the official fan group of North Georgia athletics.