Photo | Spring Hill College
Spring Hill College junior forward Alex Lipinski scored a school single-season record 38 points last year.
Are you ready for some (association) football? Well, you are in luck as our three local colleges are expected to field some outstanding soccer teams this year.
Spring Hill men
Coming off a school-record 12 victories in 2017, hopes are high for the Badgers as they enter their first season of eligibility in NCAA Division II. The men’s soccer coaches of the Gulf South Conference (GSC) have picked Spring Hill College to finish second this season behind defending league champion University of West Alabama.
Named to the GSC’s preseason all-star roster are forward Alex Lipinski and defender Jack LaForge. A junior, Lipinski was the 2017-18 SHC Male Student-Athlete of the Year after scoring a school single-season record 38 points. His 14 goals were the second-best single-season mark in SHC history, while his 10 assists established a new school record.
LaForge, a senior, is a three-time letter winner as well as a three-time member of the GSC Academic Honor Roll. He has made 43 starts in 48 appearances and led the Badgers to four shutout victories in 2017.
Senior forward Tilman Schober has earned three varsity letters at SHC, while junior forward Donte Oliver has lettered twice.
Freshmen George Brown and Eldi Seiti were picked to the GSC Top Newcomers roster. Brown is a forward from England, while Seiti is a midfielder from Venice, Italy, who was born in Athens, Greece.
Spring Hill women
SHC women will attempt to build on the 2017 campaign that saw them fail to pick up a conference victory. Senior forward Gabrielle Burmaster, a three-year letter winner, is back after leading the team with four goals.
The other upper-class members on the team are senior goalie Melissa Schwartz and junior midfielder Johanna Meister. Eleven sophomores have earned a varsity letter.
The GSC included freshmen Olivia Odimegwu and Libby Durrough on its 2018 Top Newcomers List. Odimegwu is a forward who finished her career in Tennessee as the program’s all-time leading goal-scorer. Durrough, a midfielder from Kentucky, joins the Badgers from Notre Dame Academy where she was a three-year varsity player and a National League club player for Kings Hammer Academy, which won multiple Ohio South State Cup championships.
South Alabama women
The University of South Alabama program not only was picked to win the Sun Belt Conference (SBC) this year, but its players swept the major preseason awards.
Hannah Godfrey, the team’s only senior, was voted SBC Defensive Player of the Year. Junior Kory Dixon was tabbed Offensive Player of the Year. The Jaguars received seven first-place votes in the team poll.
The Jaguars have won a league-record five straight SBC tournament titles and four consecutive regular-season crowns. They went 14-6-1 after losing their first four outings.
Godfrey started all 21 games and played a team-high 1,935 minutes. She led a defense that ranked second in goals against average and tied for first in shutouts. Godfrey was named third-team all-South Region honors by United Soccer Coaches, and first team all-conference and Defensive Player of the Year by the Sun Belt.
Dixon capped her season by accounting for four goals and 10 points in the final five contests, including three goals and two assists in the Sun Belt Tournament. She was voted second-team all-conference and all-tournament.
Junior goalie Justice Stanford has 18 career shutouts, which is tied for fourth in school history. Sophomore forward Ana Helmert had four goals and two assists.
University of Mobile women
The University of Mobile (UM) Rams are coming off an outstanding 2017 campaign. UM was the co-regular season champion of the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) with a 14-5 record, which was good for a final national ranking of No. 9. They advanced to Round of 16 in the NAIA Women’s Soccer National Championship
Another fine effort is expected, as the Rams are ninth in the NAIA preseason poll. Despite this, they have been picked to finish third in the SSAC.
William Carey is the preseason pick to win the conference, with 76 points (five first-place picks) and is No. 4 in the NAIA poll, while Martin Methodist was second with 74 points (three first-place picks) and is No. 5 in the national ranking. The trio finished the 2017 SSAC regular season as co-champions after all going 6-1.
Key veterans include senior forward Colleen Kennedy (2017 third-team All-American, first-team all-conference) and senior midfielder Noemi Mallet (second-team all-conference, 2016-17 Academic Player of the Year for SSAC Women’s Soccer).
Other returning starters are senior defender Zoe Phillips, junior defender Heidi Giles, junior forward Cheyne Bush, junior midfielder Abigail Bush and sophomore forward Tanja Hymøller.
University of Mobile men
The UM men also had a tremendous record of 14-4-3. They were the SSAC conference tournament champions and advanced to Round of Eight in the NAIA Men’s Soccer National Championship. They were ranked No. 6 in the final national poll, and hold the same spot in this year’s initial NAIA rankings.
In the preseason conference poll, William Carey stands in first place with 79 points (seven first-place picks) while UM was close behind with 73 points (two first-place picks). The Hattiesburg school, which won the regular-season title last year with a 17-2 record, is No. 5 in the NAIA poll.
Goalkeeper Guilherme Altoe returns after an outstanding junior campaign. He was on the first-team all-conference team and won the SSAC Golden Glove award. An honorable mention All-American, he will be one of the captains this year.
Matthew McArthur is a senior midfielder who will be another captain. Senior defender Jordan Sinclair has twice been a first-team all-conference selection, and was the SSAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2015.
The Rams are also expecting a big year from Victor Pimentel. The junior forward spent the summer with Next Level Academy in the Premier Development League.
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