FLORENCE, S.C. – The Francis Marion University women’s soccer team will kick off its 2011 season on Friday afternoon (Aug. 19) when the Patriots play host to UNC Wilmington. The match will start at 4 p.m. on the FMU Soccer Field and admission is free.
Third-year FMU head coach Joel Person welcomes back 10 letterwinners, including six starters, from last season’s squad that finished 3-13-2. Five of the team’s losses were by one goal. The 2011 roster also includes 11 newcomers, consisting of nine freshmen and two transfers.
UNCW returns nine starters from last year’s 9-10-0 squad. The Patriots trail 1-5-0 in the all-time series against the Seahawks, including an early-season loss in Wilmington last year.
As Francis Marion enters its fifth season as an NCAA Division I independent, Person feels very good about his returning group and new recruits. “Our future looks bright. This year’s squad is more athletic and we are especially excited about the depth we feel we have across the field. They have worked hard in the pre-season and I am pleased with the quality of the players on our roster.
“As with each new season, I am very optimistic and confident. We will play five matches in 10 days to open the season and that is a challenge. Therein, we will play lots of people to facilitate two things: to keep people fresh and to feel out what combinations work best for us.
“With 10 freshmen and six sophomores, we are still a young squad and with that fact comes a learning curve as the season starts and progresses. As with most young teams, striving to be consistent will be one of our main goals early in the season, but the ultimate goal is to get better and improve with each match.”
Person welcomes back senior goalkeeper Lauren Vetock. In her first season (2010) at FMU, she appeared in 11 matches and recorded a 2.58 goals against average, 62 saves, and a .729 save percentage. She will be backed-up by a pair of freshmen: Kristen Spain (Quincy, Mass.) and Taylor O’Berry (Jacksonville, Fla.).
Along the defensive back, junior Rebeccah Hoekstra (30 starts in two seasons) and speedy sophomore Michelle Brown (15 starts as a freshman) both return. Person is also looking for freshmen Lauren Soper (Solomons, Md.) and Sandy Odembo (Shelby, N.C.) and junior college transfer Kimmy Lawrance (Wilmington, N.C.) to be contributors and potential starters in the back. Sophomore Deanna Hunt, who played in 17 contests in 2010 and who Person calls his most-improved player, will likely play along the back line or in the midfield. Highly-touted 2010 recruit Kristina Marra, who missed the 2010 season with a knee injury, is also back.
“Hokestra has looked very strong in the pre-season and we are looking to her and Vetock to anchor our defense.”
Person returns most of his experience in the midfield: senior Erin Breen, juniors Kelly Kady and Megan Ogiltree, and sophomores Jordan Allen and Teri Kourtis. Allen and Kourtis both had a pair of assists in 2010. Newcomers Tyler King (Mobile, Ala.), Megan Goodwin (Orangeburg, S.C.), Casey Schifano (Greenlawn, N.Y.), and Brittney Smith (Arkport, N.Y.) will also contend for playing time in the midfield. Person points to Kourtis and Breen as the two who will patrol the center-mid, but adds that the team’s increased depth will allow for various rotations.
Up front, FMU returns sophomore Yasmin Bunter, who led the Patriots with five goals last season. Person also talks excitedly about his two freshmen strikers from Canada: Elizabeth Asare and Chanel Harris. “We have added athleticism up front and are looking for good things from this trio of scorers.”
The 2011 FMU schedule consists of 18 matches, six at home and 12 on the road.
Following Friday’s match, Francis Marion will entertain High Point University on Sunday at 4 p.m. The Panthers are coached by former FMU head coach Marty Beall and have advanced to the NCAA Tournament each of the past two seasons.
Entering its 17th season, the Patriot program owns an all-time mark of 171-104-14, including an all-time home record of 98-24-7. The program has won double-digit matches 12 times in 16 seasons. For the sixth time in the past seven seasons, Francis Marion earned a NSCAA Team Academic Award for 2009.