Many local colleges have had to shelve their soccer seasons in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the University of South Alabama (USA) has now managed to see action after a slight delay.
The Jaguars took to the pitch Sept. 6 against Louisiana-Lafayette in a special non-conference contest at the Foley Sports Complex, which the Ragin’ Cajuns won 2-1 in double overtime. USA’s first opportunity to play at home will be this Sunday at 1 p.m. against Troy.
“It has been a challenge, and the thought process commonly used is that you have more time to prepare and it will be beneficial, but it was not,” USA head coach Richard Moodie said in regards to having the start of the season delayed. “There was anticipation and indecisiveness on top of the idea that there may not be a season.”
With many other leagues having made the decision to delay or postpone soccer for this academic year, Moodie is pleased with how the process took place.
“The Sun Belt Conference and South Alabama have been fantastic and in constant communication with us to keep us aware of the developing situations,” said Moodie, who is entering his fourth season at USA with a 38-19-5 record. “It was a doubt in the back of everyone’s mind that the season may happen, but due diligence was done and guidelines developed for the safety of everyone involved.”
USA left back Tilly Wilkes was recently named preseason all-conference Defensive Player of the Year as well as to the preseason all-conference team. USA was also picked to win the Sun Belt, receiving nine of 11 first-place votes.
“My freshman year [Hannah] Godfrey got it and I looked up to it at that point as an achievable goal,” Wilkes said of her selection. “While I am thankful for the honor and I appreciate the recognition, I am still more focused on the team getting a trophy at the end of the season than individual accolades. If we do what we are capable of on the pitch, it will take care of itself in the end.”
The junior was joined on the list by three USA midfielders: sophomore Gracie Wilson, junior Brenna McPartlan and graduate student Athanasia Moraitou. McPartlan scored the lone goal against Louisiana-Lafayette.
All four Jags have previously won awards at the conference level. In 2019, Wilson was selected as the league’s Freshman of the Year while Moraitou was named Newcomer of the Year. McPartlan took Freshman of the Year honors in 2018. Moraitou, Wilson and Wilkes claimed spots on the all-SBC first-team roster last year, with McPartlan landing on the second-team.
The four USA student-athletes named were more selections than any other Sun Belt member. Arkansas State received two representatives, including Offensive Player of the Year pick Sarah Sodoma.
South has brought the regular-season Sun Belt title back to Mobile four of the last five seasons while collecting an NCAA Tournament automatic bid for winning the postseason conference tournament in six of the last seven. The Jaguars accomplished both in 2019.
The Jaguars hope to end the regular season where it started. The Sun Belt tournament is set for Nov. 4-8 at the Foley Sports Complex. For more information on the team and its complete schedule, visit usajaguars.com.
* The Marine Resources Division (MRD) of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) will host an oyster meeting on Thursday. It is scheduled for 1-3 p.m. at the Bayou La Batre Community and Senior Center located at 12745 Padgett Switch Road in Irvington.
The public is invited. To maintain social distancing, MRD is asking that only one person per household or group attend the meeting. Additionally, masks must be worn when inside the building.
The focus of the meeting will be to update the community about present MRD activities related to the management of Alabama’s oyster fisheries and to receive public input.
* The 33rd annual Alabama Coastal Cleanup will take place in Baldwin and Mobile counties Sept. 19-27. This is part of the International Coastal Cleanup, an effort to remove marine debris from coastal waters around the world. Alabama joined this effort in 1987. Since then, volunteers have removed tons of debris from Alabama’s coastal waters.
Volunteers are needed on land and on the water at cleanup sites. Participants will receive a T-shirt and basic cleanup supplies. Organizers are recommending participants use the Ocean Conservancy’s Clean Swell mobile app to tally their debris data. The app is available in the Apple and Android app stores.
Because of potential COVID-19 concerns, this year’s cleanup will take place across multiple days to allow volunteers to properly practice social distancing and work in small groups. Event organizers will also provide masks for up to 5,000 volunteers.
This year, ADCNR’s State Lands Coastal Section has also partnered with Alabama People Against a Littered State. For more information about the coastal zones, zone captains, start times, safety tips and a list of event sponsors, call 251-928-9792 or visit AlabamaCoastalCleanup.com.
* With the USA soccer game as an example, operations at Foley Sports Tourism are starting to ramp back up. After opening with smaller activities, organizers say the return of the Publix SuperCup this month is a massive step back to large-scale events.
The Publix SuperCup, now in its 13th year, is a joint venture between Snap Soccer and the Perdido Bay Futbol Club. By 2014, the event had grown so large organizers had to split it into two weekends to accommodate all the teams that wanted to play.
Tournament Director Zack Touchstone expected 135 teams for the girls (last weekend) and 155 teams for the boys (this weekend). The age divisions for teams located across the southeastern United States range from U9 to U19.
David Thompson, Foley’s director of recreation and sports tourism, said these events are the ones for which the organization has been preparing since the pandemic first hit.
“Even during the stay-at-home order, we were looking toward the future by investigating ways we can work together to keep both visitors and residents safe,” he said.
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