Spring Hill’s Alex Lipinski, who was named an all-American last year as the Badgers won their conference. Credit the Spring Hill College Athletic Department.
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College soccer teams chasing postseason honors
Soccer legend Pelé simply called it “the beautiful game.” It is believed that half the world’s population considers themselves fans.
Many of those boosters are in Mobile County. They will have plenty for which to cheer in 2019 as our local college teams seek success on the pitch.
Spring Hill men – The Badgers had a perfect 11-0 record in the Gulf South Conference (GSC). Spring Hill then advanced to the NCAA Division II playoffs for the first time. Their final record was 17-2.
They open this season ranked No. 20 in the United Soccer Coaches’ national poll. Surprisingly, the Badgers finished second in the GSC coaches’ preseason poll to traditional regional power – but currently unranked – University of West Florida.
“We are certainly excited about the year ahead. We have a talented and deep squad full of excellent young men,” head coach Steve Wieczorek told Lagniappe. “We have experienced players who will provide great leadership and focus as well as dynamic newcomers. It will be a great challenge ahead for this group to repeat as conference champions and go even further in the national tournament in 2019, but I believe that we are up to it.”
On the preseason all-conference squad, senior forward Alex Lipinski maintained his first-team status while being joined by junior defender Matthew Moreno. Lipinski, a United Soccer Coaches’ All-America selection, was fifth in NCAA Division II in goals scored and sixth in points. Moreno recorded six assists and five goals as a defender.
Other returning starters are Alessandro Erdelyi and Barou Ndaw at goalkeeper (they split the games while Erdelyi was second-team GSC); Vassil Kokali at defender; Konstantinos Varesis and Sacha Ducreux at midfielder; and Zach Witt at forward. Newcomers expected to contribute are defender Robin Stoffels, midfielder Joao Amaral and forward Denis Agayi.
Spring Hill women – The Badgers are counting on veterans to help them improve on last year’s record of 1-14-1.
“I’m really excited for the year,” interim head coach Emily Marcouiller told Lagniappe. “The girls have been working so hard and the intensity at training has been tremendous. They have really come together in our preseason and they are hungry.”
Returning starters are Hannah Fluharty at goalkeeper; Sabrina Cruz, Kylee Harrell, Kylie Long and Abby Lollar at defender; Olivia Hall at defender/midfielder; Meggie van den Oever and Sidney Spivey at midfielder; and Olivia Odimegwu at forward. Two freshmen named to the GSC Newcomers Team are defender Carson Reeves and midfielder Morgan Spivey.
University of South Alabama (USA) women – The Jaguars had their streak of four consecutive Sun Belt Conference (SBC) titles and five straight NCAA Tournament appearances snapped last season as they finished 8-9-2.
“There are still places up for grabs, I think,” head coach Richard Moodie said of the starting lineup. “The question is, who is going to put the ball in the back of the net. We have so many people that can do it. It’s just a case of trying to figure out who is consistently going to do it.”
Sophomore midfielder Brenna McPartlan, named to the preseason all-SBC team, returns as the Jaguars’ leader in goals (5), assists (4), points (14) and game-winning goals. She was the Sun Belt’s Freshman of the Year.
Senior goalkeeper Justice Stanford ranked second in the SBC last season in goals against average (0.57) and save percentage (0.86) in conference matches. Stanford currently ranks first at USA in career shutouts (24), second in goals against average (0.93), third in save percentage (0.796) and eighth in saves (214).
Senior forward Briana Morris, who ranked second on the squad in points (9) and assists (3) and tied for third in goals (3), was named to the SBC all-tournament team. She has already captured the first SBC Player of the Week honor for 2019 for recording three goals and an assist in South’s initial two games.
USA finished second in the preseason SBC poll. Defending regular season champion Texas State was first.
University of Mobile women – The Rams, who were 12-8 last year, are picked third in the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) coaches’ poll. Defending NAIA national champion William Carey University is first.
“This year’s team is a lot of fun to work with,” Brian Person, who is entering his 13th season as head coach, told Lagniappe. “We have some veteran players willing to lead a host of young and inexperienced players who are eager to learn. We may not be the most talented team but I think this group will develop into a true team that has plenty of depth. Depth is very important for a team to have a successful season. I am excited to see what the future holds for this group.”
Senior defender Heidi Giles returns after having received the highest academic honor bestowed by the SSAC: Scholar-Athlete of the Year. She was a first-team all-conference pick and NAIA All-American honorable mention while leading a defense that held opponents to a goal or less in 11 games. Giles maintains a 4.0 grade point average in business accounting classes.
Sisters named to the second-team SSAC roster are senior forward Cheyne Bush (led team with nine goals scored) and senior midfielder Abigail Bush. On the all-freshman team was midfielder Madia Soderburg.
University of Mobile (UM) men – The Rams, who were 14-5 last year, have been picked for third place in the SSAC. Defending champion William Carey was first.
Junior forward Victor Pimentel earned first-team all-SSAC honors. He finished the season with 10 goals and led the Rams with six assists. On the second-team list was junior forward Ronaldo Fortune, UM’s leading scorer with 11 goals.
“Really excited to get the 2019 season underway,” head coach Daniel Whelan told Lagniappe. “We returned some key players, but also graduated a lot of guys who had been with us since their freshman year and that’s hard to replace. We are looking forward to building again with what we believe is a great group of young men.”
Ryan Leaf to speak in Daphne
Former NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf will speak at the Baldwin County Drug Court Foundation’s 10th annual “Remember, You Can Make a Difference” fundraiser. The event is set for Tuesday, Sept. 10, at 6 p.m., in the Daphne Civic Center (2603 U.S. 90).
According to organizers, Leaf will discuss the pressure to perform and his inability to cope with the stresses of the NFL, and as he puts it, “live life on life’s terms,” which lead to the eventual demise of his career. Tickets may be purchased online at baldwindrugcourt.com or from Raina Macks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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