With their season starting Friday, the Georgia Southern women’s soccer team returns with a slew of experienced players to meet a fair schedule of competition.
Head coach Brian Dunleavy is excited about the status of his team.
“The group of seniors we have,” Dunleavy said, “their leadership qualities, the way they’ve really helped build a positive culture and a winning atmosphere.”
Georgia Southern lost five seniors from last year’s squad, and while the majority of them played a key role throughout the course of the season, the Eagles return eight starters to the field in 2018.
The Eagles have players returning to the team and starting lineup who were already on the roster last year but missed the entire season due to injuries. Midfielder Marcela Montoya and forward Halle Huff return after being red-shirted last season due to season-ending injuries.
“We’re filling in starters that have already played for us before,” Dunleavy said. “And also our freshman class is actually quite good.”
In 2017, the team seemed to be always on the road, or in the air, traveling, and Dunleavy said that might have taken a toll on his players. This year, the schedule is “much more balanced,” with the team spending no more than two games in a row on the road.
The Eagles went into the Sun Belt Tournament last year as the sixth seed in the conference, where they eventually fell to Coastal Carolina in the semifinals.
“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be into the top three of the league,” Dunleavy said when asked about his goals for the season.
The team is approaching the season in a different way, with investments in new software to enhance their training, medical and gameplan needs.
“We’ve developed a bit of a rivalry with Coastal and Troy,” Dunleavy said. “We all tend to recruit the same types of kids.”
While focused on the Chanticleers and the Trojans, Dunleavy added that the heated matchups with in-state rival Georgia State is probably the biggest rivalry for the Women’s Soccer program, and earning those rivalry points are a huge motivating factor.
GS doesn’t face off against any conference rivals until mid-September, but they open their 2018 campaign with a road matchup against Florida Gulf Coast on Friday. The season opener in Fort Myers, Florida is set for 7 p.m.
Ryan Pye, The George-Anne Sports Reporter, email@example.com