September 5, 2013

Women's Soccer Looks To Keep Momentum In 2013

DAHLONEGA, Georgia - (UNGAthletics.com) - After a very successful 2012 campaign, the University of North Georgia women's soccer team will be looking to make some more noise in the 2013 season, which is just about set to get under way.

Last season, head coach Chris Adams, entering his 11th season with UNG, endured much success, however fell just short in the NCAA tournament as his team was ousted by Armstrong Atlantic for what turned out to be the third time on the season. Armstrong Atlantic proved to be a problem for the Nighthawks, but to their credit, they were the #1 ranked team in the nation the last two times the teams met. Looking back, the 2012 team may be the team that gets these Nighthawks a boost of respect and confidence heading into a very competitive schedule.

After losing to AASU in both the Peach Belt Conference semifinals and in the NCAA tournament, the Nighthawks will have October 5th circled on their calendar, when the Pirates travel to Dahlonega for a rematch between the two teams. 

"I thought it was a good year, obviously, finishing 15-5-2. Three of the five losses coming at the hands of Armstrong Atlantic, obviously a very good team. They were number one in the nation two of the three times we played them. All in all, we made it as high as fifth in the country which I think is a major accomplishment," said Adams. "We find ourselves 16th coming into this season without playing, so I think we're gaining some respect. Like we told the team, this 16th ranking is really based off last year and this year is a new year and a new slate."

Given the success of the last couple years, there are very high expectations for the upcoming season.

UNG will be returning five of their top six goal scorers, including, but certainly not limited to, senior Kelly Penston, who led the team in goals with 12 and also four assists. Among the other returners are senior Caroline Wallace, sophomore Sophia Matonak, junior Kayla Croom, and junior Cicely Taliaferro. As a result of all the returning talent, combined with talented underclassman, Adams feels good about the dynamic surrounding his team and depth he has at his disposal.

"On the attack, we really lost two; one we lost early, Kelsey Martin, to an ACL injury and unfortunately we were forced to replace her middle of the season, the other, Abby Trevino. We've added quite a few people we hope can statistically make up for the goals and assists that Abby provided for us," said Adams. "We really are extremely deep at the forward position and that should prove to be beneficial to just throwing a lot of different looks at people, from a player personal standpoint."

The Nighthawks will also return sophomore goalkeeper, Mallory Sayre. The defense will have some pieces to fill as a result of senior departures, but Sayre looks to be the center piece behind it this season as she looks to build on a big freshman season. In addition to Sayre, Adams will be looking towards five new freshmen to step into big roles with the defense and also returning senior Mackenzie Robbins, who played in 15 games a year ago.

"Where our losses were mainly from last year, were in the back. We lost three of our starting four backs, so that'll be the area we'll have to work on the most and get some continuity. The good news is, there's a bunch of people vying for those positions and on any given day, it's kind of been a different group being successful," said Adams. "So I think that speaks volumes to the depth and the fact we'll be able to play a lot more players than we are accustomed to."

After opening the 2012 as an unranked and relatively unknown commodity throughout the soccer world, North Georgia made big statements over ranked Rollins, Lander and complete domination over several out of conference opponents. That team, consisting of many of the same players, looks to take the next step in their postseason success to cement their legacy. 

"We're picked to finish third in the Peach Belt, I think three people picked us first. You can look at it one of two ways: you can say three people think we're good enough to win it and get that confidence or you can look at it that eight people didn't pick you to finish first," said Adams. "I think we play better with a chip on our shoulder, so maybe we'll set out to prove to those eight people, hopefully this year with our additional depth, that we're good enough to make a run at the Peach Belt."

UNG will open its 2013 season on September 6th at 5:00 PM, in Valdosta, Georgia, against the Florida Institute of Technology as part of the Valdosta State Classic.

Written By: Chris Natsch, UNG Athletic Communications Student Assistant