»By ANTHONY SHINGLER – firstname.lastname@example.org
The 2011 Lady Govs soccer team have to answer only one question this season: “How do you improve on a recording breaking, historic season?”
The answer is simple: Win the Ohio Valley Conference Championship.
The 2010 Lady Govs earned the most wins in program history with a 15-6-1 record. They were one of only three teams to earn a spot in the OVC tournament and the only team to make it to the championship game.
However, Morehead State defeated the Lady Govs 2-1 and became the conference champions.
Key players on both sides of the ball are back this season, ready to not only prove last season was not a fluke, but to also be the first team in program history to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament.
The Lady Govs lost six seniors from last year’s OVC tournament runner-up team, but return six starters, including their top three scorers. Two of those scorers will be on the front line with Ole Miss transfer Emily Perkins. They are two of the talented freshmen class who now make up the seven sophomores on the team.
Head coach Kelley Guth is looking for leadership from the eight upperclassmen on the team.
“We lost a lot of leadership, graduating two captains that were captains for three and four years. It was one of our biggest obstacles going into our spring last year, trying to establish leadership with the returning players,” Guth said.
“Now we are here and have been here for three weeks. The freshmen have acclimated well, are working very hard and have had great performances. Our transfers Perkins and Zigelsky have both stepped up and contributed to our team’s success so far. The transition has been really good this season. It has been a really exciting start. The girls have been really working hard and we will continue to just get better.”
The midfield will be anchored by Jocolyn Murdoch, Natalia Ariza, and Joceline Quiceno, all of whom return from last season. Returning players holding down the back line include Sara Kluttz, Emily Kink and Renny Robinson.
“Our backline, I have to give a lot of credit to, and our team focus defensively as a unit. We spent a lot of time in preseason on defending as a team,” Guth said.
“We are defending well and it is great when you can defend well and put the ball in the back of the net.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
All eyes are on sophomore forward Tatiana Ariza. After leading the team with 11 goals last season, Ariza joined the Colombian national team that participated in the 2011 Women’s World Cup.
Ariza is already on pace to surpass her totals from last year. With the five goals she has scored in the first two games of the season, Ariza is now APSU’s second all-time leading scorer.
Also turning heads with her offense is freshman forward Claire Putz. Putz has scored five goals in the first two games, keeping pace with Ariza. Putz joined the team from La Cueva High School in Albuquerque, N.M.
Senior Mackenzie Ladd and Sophomore Haylee Shoaff are both making convincing arguments for time as goalkeeper. The two have combined to produce two shutouts.
“We have two keepers that have really been competing back and forth with one another,” Guth said.
“They have been splitting the time right now just to give them some experience .”
STARTING THE SEASON
The Lady Govs have started the regular season by setting the road on fire. First, they set a record by scoring 14 goals against Alabama A&M. Five different players found the net, led by Putz’s four goals.
In addition, Ariza and Perkins both made three goals. Alabama was held to only one shot and no goals.
Next, the team traveled to Chattanooga and earned their second win over the Mocs, 4-0. Ariza found the net two more times. Putz and Perkins both added one.
Chattanooga was able to generate nine shots. However, Ladd and Shoaff combined for five saves and kept the game a shutout.
The Lady Govs will play their home opener against Union University on Tuesday, Aug. 30.
They will play two more home games later that weekend on Friday, Sept. 2 and Sunday, Sept. 4.
The rematch against Morehead State will be the last game of the season on Sunday, Oct. 30. TAS