FLORENCE, S.C. – The Francis Marion University women’s soccer team, under the direction of first-year head coach Joel Person, will open its 2009 season on Friday evening (Aug. 21) at Campbell University. The match will kick-off at 7 p.m. at the Eakes Athletic Complex.
Francis Marion welcomes back 15 letterwinners, including eight starters, from last season’s 6-12-1 squad. Campbell returns seven starters from last year’s 5-10-3 team. The Patriots defeated Campbell 2-0 in the 2008 season finale in Florence, and leads the all-time series 2-0-0.
The Patriots will open their home schedule on Sunday (Aug. 23) with a noon match-up against Patriot League power Navy.
Francis Marion is entering its third season as an NCAA Division I independent. Its 2009 schedule includes nine matches against teams which posted non-losing records in 2008. FMU will play six home matches.
“I am very excited to get the season started,” Person said. “The pre-season has gone very well, the players have practiced hard, and I am very pleased with the amount of work we have accomplished.
“As a team, we are looking to make progress every time we step on the field, be it practice or a match. Our strength will be in a very disciplined style of play. We want to make it difficult for our opponents to break us down and score goals. And this means not just at the defensive end, but from front to back.
“We should be competitive against a challenging schedule, and that should make for a fun season.”
Two-time team most valuable player Angela Salem leads the returnees. Salem led FMU in points last season with three goals and seven assists. She has career totals of 11 goals and 27 assists in 54 matches. “Angela provides our team with a spark from the midfield,” Person said of his senior midfielder. “She can create scoring opportunities for others or score herself, and this year she has worked hard to improve her defensive game.”
The other top three scorers from 2008 also return. Sophomore forwards Kiley Williams and Amanda Hall both tallied five goals, while junior midfielder Taylor Jenkins had two goals and two assists.
“Kiley will be looked to for goal scoring. The key to her success will be positioning, and the ability to turn and face the goal and finish. She and Angela are our two best players at striking the ball.
“Amanda and Jennifer (Dyer) are two other offensive options. We will look to them to score, but because of their athletic ability they will also see playing time at other spots on the field. Jennifer has been a great pick-up. She is very athletic and I look for her to improve as the season goes along.”
Dyer, a senior, spent the last two years starting on the Francis Marion women’s basketball team and helping the Patriots to consecutive Peach Belt Conference regular-season titles and a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances. She is playing her first organized soccer since high school in North Carolina.
The Patriots return both goalkeepers from 2008: senior Emily Brandenburg (2.16 GAA in 16 matches) and sophomore Casey Durham (1.92 GAA in nine matches). “We have two solid keepers, and they are locked in a tight battle for playing time. Quality depth at that position is a nice commodity to have.” Last season, Brandenburg ranked 90th among all NCAA Division I keepers with 5.1 saves per match.
“Overall, we have good depth entering the season. That has created a good intensity at practice as everyone is looking to earn playing time.
“Our defense in front of the goal will be anchored by center backs Margaret Fanning and Rachel Rubin. Both are experienced and have made great strides through spring practice and in the fall pre-season.” Rubin, a senior, has started all 56 matches since stepping onto the FMU campus.
Two freshmen from Canada will also factor into the Patriots’ game plan: forward Rebeccah Hoekstra and midfielder Megan Ogiltree. “Both of these young ladies will contribute this season, and I look forward to them being very solid players over their careers at Francis Marion.”
Playing an extremely tough schedule in 2008, FMU opened 0-10-1, but finished strong by winning six of its final eight matches, including three straight shutouts to end the season. The Patriots enter the 2009 season with a defensive scoreless streak of 364:58.
Among the opponents on the 2009 slate are road matches at UNC Charlotte (an NCAA Tournament team in 2008) and N.C. State University. Navy has won seven Patriot League regular-season titles and made three appearances in the NCAA Tournament. In addition to the home match with Navy, Francis Marion will also entertain Presbyterian College (Sept. 13), UNC Wilmington (Sept. 18), Appalachian State University (Sept. 20), Charleston Southern University (Sept. 27), and Longwood University (Oct. 18). FMU owns an all-time home record of 93-18-6.
Person is the third head coach in the program’s 15-year history. The Patriots own an all-time record of 165-79-11, including 12 seasons with double-digit victories.