The University of South Alabama’s women’s soccer team will be displaying a fresh look at The Cage on Aug. 11 when it hosts Ole Miss in an exhibition match at 7 p.m.
Not only will it mark the first home game for first-year head coach Richard Moodie, the Jaguars will also be performing on a new playing surface as they open defense of their Sun Belt Conference title.
“I think this shows the passion of the school moving forward,” said Moodie, who arrives after leading Carson-Newman University to a 36-7-1 record and a pair of NCAA Division II tournament appearances the last two years. “You can always tell the drive of a university by the construction projects over the summer. You can see what athletics mean to this school and obviously they’re pushing forward with the relaying of the surface. I think it’s great for recruits to see schools that are investing in athletics.”
Tyler Cornish, assistant athletic field manager at USA, and his team handled the endeavor. School officials determined it was needed because of poor drainage and an incorrect grade that resulted in low spots where water accumulated.
The first step was to remove the old turf. At that point, 100 tons of sand was added to help with drainage and the field was regraded. Another 100 tons of sand was poured on top and the new sod was laid as the final step.
“We planned this to be done weeks ago, but Mother Nature always likes to throw a wrench in our plans down here in the wettest city in America,” Cornish said. “It threw us for a loop and we had several game plans, but we finally got some dry days to finally get it finished up.”
The USA soccer team is coming off an incredible four-year run under former head coach Graham Winkworth, who left to take over the program at Arizona State. During Winkworth’s tenure, the Jaguars were 66-18-7, won three straight Sun Belt regular-season titles and claimed four conference tournaments. USA went to the NCAA Division I playoffs each year.
Next season’s schedule includes rematches with two nationally ranked opponents and a visit by Alabama. Overall, the Jaguars will have 10 home games.
“The schedule is exciting,” Moodie said. “The Sun Belt Conference schedule itself is great, with some teams in the top 100 in the RPI (Rating Percentage Index), but the teams we play in the nonconference matchups are exciting. For some, it might be intimidating, but for the program we have here, it’s great.”
The Jags will play two SEC opponents in exhibitions. In addition to Ole Miss, South will face LSU on Aug. 7 in Orange Beach.
“When we came into this thing and we took the job, we knew Auburn and Florida State were on the calendar, so as a coaching staff, we said we wanted to play top competition to prepare us for those games,” Moodie said. “The LSU and Ole Miss games naturally will prepare us mentally, physically, tactically, technically — however you want to look at it in soccer terms — and it will give us an opportunity to get our 10 new girls playing together. The schedule will be tough but the preseason will allow us to jell together and allow those new players to be taken under the wing of the veterans.”
The regular season begins in earnest Aug. 18 at Auburn, a rematch of last year’s NCAA Tournament game won by the Tigers. On Aug. 20, USA will travel to Florida State. During 2016, the Jags defeated the then-No. 1 Seminoles at The Cage 1-0.
After welcoming Murray State on Aug. 27, USA hosts a four-team event Sept. 1 and 3. Troy and Jacksonville State start things off that Friday before the Jags take on Alabama. On Sunday, Troy will face Alabama in the opener, while USA and JSU will be the second half of the doubleheader.
The nonconference part of the schedule wraps up the next weekend with a home match against Southeastern Louisiana on Sept. 8 and a road trip to Mississippi State on Sept. 10.
On Sept. 15, South takes on SBC rival Appalachian State to start a three-game run of home matches. Louisiana-Monroe, led by former Jaguar assistant Keyton Wheelock, comes to Mobile on Sept. 17 while Georgia State visits on Sept. 24.
After playing at Georgia Southern on Sept. 29, the Jaguars travel to Troy on Oct. 1. The Trojans ended the Jags’ 33-game conference unbeaten streak last season in Mobile, but USA gained revenge in the Sun Belt Tournament by winning 1-0 in the quarterfinals.
The final two season home games are Oct. 8 against Little Rock and Oct. 13 versus Arkansas State. South Alabama wraps up the regular season with three consecutive road games: Oct. 15 at Coastal Carolina, Oct. 20 at Louisiana-Lafayette and Oct. 22 at Texas State.
The Sun Belt Tournament will take place just down the road Nov. 1-5 at the Foley Sports Tourism Complex. The Jaguars won the tournament last year without giving up a single goal.
“I think it works to the advantage of the conference because of the location and facility — it makes for a fantastic environment,” Moodie said. “For us, being so close to home, it’s beneficial too.”
SHC golf event reset
The third annual Arthur R. Outlaw Memorial Golf Classic has been rescheduled for Sept. 22 at the Spring Hill College Golf Course. The tourney will begin that Friday at noon, with registration set for 10 a.m. Tropical Storm Cindy postponed this major fundraiser for the Badger athletic teams.
The entry fee is $400 per four-person team. Hole and tee box sponsorships are available. For more information, contact Assistant Athletic Director Michael Patrick at 251-380-4461 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rabren picks up trophy
Brooks Rabren, a rising USA junior, posted back-to-back scores in the 60s to win the 50th annual Spirit of America Classic title at the Burningtree Country Club in Decatur, Alabama. He finished with a 7-under-par total of 277.
“It’s been a great week,” Rabren told the media. “I guess my expectations need to be little higher in the future.” As a sophomore at USA, Rabren recorded a pair of top 20 finishes and shot par or better in seven of 17 rounds.