During the last four seasons, the women’s soccer team at the University of South Alabama has been ranked among the best in the nation. The Jaguars posted a 66-18-7 overall record, won three straight Sun Belt Conference regular-season titles and four Sun Belt Tournament crowns in that stretch.
At the helm of the program was Graham Winkworth. The team’s success also brought the head coach attention, and he was recently hired to oversee the program at Arizona State, which replaced Kevin Boyd after the Sun Devils went 6-11-2 in 2016.
“Simply put, Graham has transformed the women’s soccer program at the University of South Alabama,” said Joel Erdmann, USA director of athletics. “What has been accomplished in his time here is simply astounding.”
The Jaguars have dominated the Sun Belt Conference. Under Winkworth, USA was 29-5-2 in league play, including unbeaten seasons in 2014 and 2015. Two years ago the team recorded its first-ever NCAA postseason victory in a game against LSU.
Hoping to keep the tradition going, Erdmann has selected Richard Moodie to take over as head coach. Over the last two years, Moodie has led Tennessee’s Carson-Newman to a 36-7-1 record and a pair of NCAA Division II Tournament appearances.
“We were fortunate to have a tremendous pool of candidates for this position who all possessed impressive experience and accomplishments,” Erdmann said. “The selection of Coach Moodie was driven by a combination of factors, including his history of successfully and simultaneously leading two programs, his teaching and leadership style, his recruiting philosophy and success, his vision for the South Alabama soccer program, and his inherent energy and passion for the sport of soccer and the coaching profession. We are excited about his arrival on campus and looking forward to working with him to place his thumbprint on the program.”
Moodie directed the Carson-Newman men’s soccer program to a 59-44-9 overall mark (35-21 in South Atlantic Conference) the last six years. He guided the women’s team to a 48-38-7 record in the last five seasons. While the women’s squad won back-to-back league regular-season and tournament titles, the men reached the NCAA Tournament championship match in 2013.
“It was going to take something special for me to leave Carson-Newman, but when I got on the South Alabama campus I felt like this was the right move,” Moodie said. “I’ve spent all my days at Carson-Newman — I went to school, met my wife and raised my family there — but for my family and my career this was the best decision. It’s hard to put into words why South Alabama is special, but once you step onto campus you can see it and you can feel it. It’s a great place to be and is destined for many more successes across the board.”
Moodie was named the CaptainU National Coach of the Year after leading the men’s squad to the NCAA championship match in 2013 as they finished the year with a 16-6-1 mark. In 2015, he was named the SAC Coach of the Year.
A four-year letter winner at Carson-Newman from 2002-05, Moodie ranks among the program’s all-time leaders with 73 total appearances and 59 starts. As a senior, Moodie was named first-team all-region and all-conference. He has a bachelor’s in business management and a master’s in education.
USA, which has been to four straight NCAA tournaments, returns 10 starters and 17 letter winners. Leading the way is sophomore Jemma Purfield, who has been named third-team All-American by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. The Cottingham, England, native is the first All-American in the program’s history.
She was the Sun Belt Conference’s Defender and Player of the Year, the Sun Belt Tournament Most Outstanding Player, and earned first-team all-region honors by the NSCAA. She led the league with 1.32 points per game.
Freshman Alexis Jordan and Purfield were also voted to the NSCAA All-South Region Team earlier in the week. Jordan is the fourth consecutive Jaguar to win Sun Belt Freshman of the Year honors after ranking fourth in the league in assists per game (0.30) and was a crucial part of a defense that led the conference in goals against average (0.84) and shutouts (12).
“The biggest thing for me, regardless of how successful the program has been, is taking the time to re-recruit the current student-athletes and establish relationships with the current team,” Moodie said. “Clearly the program’s results speak for themselves, but we want to evaluate goals and objectives and make sure we are all in the same boat rowing together.”
More futbol news
• University of Mobile’s Cayla Hebert, Tyler-Rae Molloy and Leah Corse have been named NAIA All-Americans. Molloy was named to the first-team after being on the Honorable Mention list the previous two years. The 2016 SSAC Player of the Year recorded 20 goals, 15 assists and 55 points in 21 games for the Lady Rams.
Hebert was named to the third-team for the second time after scoring 12 goals and recording three assists. Corse was named to the third-team as she recorded eight goals and four assists. She also helped the Lady Rams defense record 13 shutouts en route to the SSAC Regular-Season Conference Championship.
• The women’s soccer team at Spring Hill College has qualified for the NSCAA’s Team Ethics and Sportsmanship Award (Silver Level). Teams are honored on a percentage of players or coaches receiving a yellow card or red card. The Silver Level was between 11 percent and 30 percent.
• Noemi Mallet of UM has been named the Women’s Soccer Scholar-Athlete of the Year by the Southern States Athletic Conference. She has a 3.94 GPA in chemistry, and was second-team all-league with six goals and five assists.
Senior Bowl coming soon
Players will start arriving for the Senior Bowl this weekend. Practices will begin Tuesday, Jan. 24, at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. The general public can enter from the East stands.
The first event for fans will be the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Chick-fil-A Rally at the Mobile Convention Center. The event, set for 6:30-8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 25, is the largest FCA rally at a bowl game, with more than 2,000 attendees expected.
Other events will be covered in next week’s column, including a list of players. For ticket information, visit www.SeniorBowl.com or call 251-432-4109.