Ready for some fütbol? Local college soccer teams are set to hit the pitch, and many are favored to pursue championship trophies.
● The University of Mobile women’s team has been picked to win the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) championship in 2015. The Lady Rams won both the SSAC regular season and tournament titles in 2014 and reached the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) national playoffs. In the NAIA Coaches’ Preseason Top 25, Mobile is at No. 10.
“I am flattered to be voted the preseason SSAC favorites, especially with the extremely talented teams we have in the SSAC,” said head coach Brian Person. “However, I do believe that we have achieved that ranking based on our performances last year.”
The Lady Rams return 19 players from last year’s squad. Leading the offense are NAIA honorable mention All-Americans Katie Compton (9 goals, 2 assists) and Tyler-Rae Molloy (9 goals, 6 assists). Rebecca Wynne posted a 13-2-2 record as the goalie, including 10 shutouts. Mobile returns 11 players who started in at least 10 games, with Saskie Adriance and Leah Corse having played in all 21 contests.
● The University of Mobile men’s team is the co-favorite to win the SSAC title. In a preseason poll of league coaches, the Rams tied with Bethel University. The Rams won the 2014 regular season title, while the Wildcats brought home the tournament trophy. In the preseason national rankings, Mobile is at No. 6, Bethel No. 22.
Leading the way for Mobile are Pierre Mangold (49 career games) and Harry McGregor (second team all-SSAC). Other key performers are Noel Johnson (4 goals, 5 assists), Newton Henry (6 goals, 1 assist) and George Stannard (4 goals).
“Our non-conference schedule is as difficult as always, and it needs to be in order to prepare for the tough conference schedule,” said head coach Daniel Whelan, whose teams have won four conference championships in the last five seasons. “I expect at least four of the teams we face will be in the Top 25, and we also play NCAA D-II powerhouse West Florida.”
● The University of South Alabama women’s team is coming off an incredible season. The Lady Jags took all of the major Sun Belt Conference (SBC) postseason awards and two conference titles, and returned to the NCAA Tournament.
Head coach Graham Winkworth is hoping for even more success in 2015. USA returns all 11 starters, including the SBC preseason offensive and defensive players of the year.
“We want to compete for a championship again,” Winkworth said. “Our biggest goal is to perform extremely well and make sure the girls are listening to the tactical side of the game that we’re trying to coach them.”
The Lady Jags have been voted to repeat as the SBC champions. Four players were also named to the preseason all-conference team.
Senior Nini Rabsatt-Smith and sophomore Chardé Hannah repeated as the defensive and offensive players of the year, respectively. Hannah led the conference in goals (20) and points (47). Rabsatt-Smith anchored a defense that recorded 12 shutouts.
Joining them on the preseason team are sophomore Sophie Haywood and Steffi Hardy. Other starters who received SBC honors last season are Sarah Hay, Nikki Shirtcliffe, Monique Autmon, Danielle Henley and Rio Hardy.
● The Spring Hill College men’s team is starting its second transitional season in NCAA Division II with a new head coach in Steve Wieczorek. “There is always a level of excitement with the start of a new season and this year is no different,” Wieczorek said. “I expect the boys to come in this preseason very hungry and eager to impress.”
The top returning offensive players are senior Andrew McInnis (2 goals, 2 assists, 13 starts) and junior Dinard Garrett (2 goals, 8 starts). Returning at goal are senior Jacob Files (5 starts, 17 saves) and sophomore Gabriel Lopez.
The Gulf South Conference has recognized two Badgers to its Top Newcomers list for the 2015 season. Frederik Bladt is a junior transfer from William & Clark Community College while Tilman Schober is a freshman midfielder from Schriesheim, Germany.
● The Spring Hill College women’s team is also going into the season with a new coach. Taking over the helm is Lisa Mann. “I am very happy to be joining the Spring Hill College family,” she said. “This job is a fantastic opportunity and I look forward to the challenge of building this program and helping each individual athlete have a great college experience.”
In just its second season in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, the Lady Badgers are the preseason favorite to win the West Division. The key veteran for the Lady Badgers is senior Courtney Harlan, who earned her second straight berth on the All-Independents Collegiate Athletic Association team in 2014. The McGill-Toolen Catholic High School alumni recorded nine goals and four assists as a junior. In her career, she had 33 goals and 23 assists in 52 games.
Other key veterans are Hannah Michael (3 goals) and Francesca Talotta (2 goals, 1 assist). The top returning goalkeeper is Maggie Dalessio (57 saves).
The Gulf South Conference picked Brittany McNair to its Top Newcomers list. The Ocean Springs native is a transfer from Columbus State University in Georgia.
● The next home action for South Alabama will be a tourney Sept. 4 and 6 involving Austin Peay, South Florida and Troy. For a complete schedule, visit www.usajaguars.com.
The men’s team for the University of Mobile will play at home again Sept. 11 against Saint Thomas of Houston. The Lady Rams will host a tournament in Orange Beach Sept. 11-12 with Cumberland and Olivet Nazarene, respectively ranked No. 4 and 14 in the national preseason poll. The team’s next on-campus game will be Sept. 24 against Georgia Gwinnet. For a complete schedule, visit www.umobilerams.com.
The men’s team for Spring Hill will open its season this Saturday against William Carey. The Lady Badgers’ first home game will be Sept. 19 against West Florida. For a complete schedule, visit www.shcbadgers.com.