ANDERSON, S.C. – With an early exit in last season’s South Atlantic Conference tournament looming in the back of the minds of the Anderson University women’s soccer team, the Trojans look to bounce back in 2013 with a trio of senior leaders, a couple of Division I transfers and a pair of international players.
Anderson was eliminated in the opening round of the 2012 SAC Tournament by Catawba, a team it defeated during the regular season. The Trojans closed the season with a 7-7-3 record and a 4-3-2 mark in SAC play. A lot of new faces will be on the pitch for head coach Samar Azem, as she returns four players from a season ago and welcomes 17 newcomers in one of the biggest and impressive recruiting classes in program history.
“Last year we had a lot of success defensively, but we didn’t score a lot of goals,” Azem said. “We were flat when it comes to attacking and that was one of our goals, recruiting wise. We lost a lot of key defenders, but we also wanted to add creativity in our attack for our system of play. A lot of these younger players are ready to play right now and that is something we’ve been missing.”
Goalkeepers: Senior workhorse Kaitlyn Neipp returns to the roster for her fourth and final season with the Trojans. Neipp has been a four-year starter with 52 appearances in a black and gold uniform. Last season, the Anderson native posted seven shutouts, which tied her for the most in the SAC. Neipp has played in over 4,658 minutes and carries a career goals against average of 1.22.
“Kaitlyn has been preparing herself mentally,” Azem said. “She is coming into this season stronger, more prepared and more determined and I think she will do very well for us as a leader and as a goalkeeper.”
Behind Neipp will be freshman Sadie Lancaster who comes to AU from Celina, Texas. Lancaster succeeded on the club level with Andromeda FC where she once posted 28 consecutive shutouts.
Defense: Azem’s team will bring back just one member off its backline from a season ago, as Heather Hooper leads the outside of the defense. Hooper appeared in 10 matches as a freshman, including her debut in the 4-0 win over Erskine. Despite the lack of returnees to the defense, Azem likes the experience with Division I transfer Faith Johannes (UNLV) and international player, Anna Masdottir (Iceland). AU also welcomes freshman Madison Taylor who brings some international experience playing with the United States Deaf National Team, winning goal in the 2013 Deaflympics and 2012 Deaf Football Championship.
“Heather did really well during the spring for us and worked very hard,” Azem said. “She brings her experience with Maddie (Madison) Taylor, who also plays on the outside, along with Faith Johannes and Anna Masdottir all having experience in the centerback position. Preseason is going to be about figuring out who plays the best with whom because we definitely have a lot of talented players. We’re definitely excited about our backline.”
Midfield: Senior Olivia Scalzitti, who played her first season at AU last season after beginning her career at Ohio Dominican, will be the only returnee to the midfield. The Brecksville, Ohio native started 16 matches and tallied two goals to go along with 27 shots, the second most on the team.
“What makes us so excited about our midfield is that we have some very experienced players coming in,” Azem said. “Olivia (Scalzitti) brings in her experience and senior leadership as being a spring captain. She has been preparing for the fall and has been rallying her teammates and I am excited to see continue her leadership, while seeing some of our younger players step up.”
The midfield will be Anderson’s youngest position, as eight of the 10 midfielders listed on the roster are freshmen. One name that stands out is Azem’s first recruit from outside the United States in Paige Gowans-Smith. Gowans-Smith comes to the Upstate from Lancashire, England where she played club soccer for Liverpool Ladies FC. Transfer Emily Cowan also adds experience to a midfield after competing for Cleveland State for the last two seasons.
“Emily and Paige bring in a lot of experience,” Azem said. “We now have some creative players in the midfield which we felt we have been lacking in the past.”
Forwards: Senior Krystal Goss returns as one of top goal scorers in Trojan history, as she enters her final season with 15 goals under her belt. Goss paced the team with eight goals and seven assists to accumulate 23 points which tied for fourth in the league. Like the rest of the positions, there will be new faces joining Goss up top, as Azem will look for goals from freshmen Helena Moore, Nicole Bulding and Alaina Gay. Moore, who scored 14 goals during the 2012 season at Northwestern High School in Rock Hill, S.C., will add speed and an excellent attacking ability to a front line that will look to add pressure to backlines throughout the season.
“Krystal is a very technical player and we’re surrounding her with a lot of athletic players out the outside,” Azem said. “Working with Krystal will be good for us, but she is also going to see some competition there. I’m very excited with the forward position in general.”
Schedule: A pair of tough matches, followed by the opening of SAC play awaits Anderson, as the Trojans open the 2013 season with a home match against always tough Rollins (Sept. 7), and a road game with in-state rival, Lander (Sept. 11). Three days later, AU hosts Catawba, the team that eliminated the Trojans from postseason play a season ago. With back-to-back non-conference matches with Erskine (Sept. 16) and Georgia College (Sept. 18), Anderson continues SAC play with a home match with Coker (Sept. 21) and back-to-back road contests at Queens (Sept. 25) and Mars Hill (Sept. 28). After their penultimate non-conference match with Columbus State on Oct. 1, the Trojans face three more conference matches with Tusculum (Oct. 6), Newberry (Oct. 9) and Lenoir-Rhyne (Oct. 12). A home match with Emmanuel on Oct. 16 closes the non-conference slate and will begin a string of SAC contests with home matches with Lincoln Memorial (Oct. 19) and Carson-Newman (Nov. 2) and two road meetings with Brevard (Oct. 22) and Wingate (Oct. 26). The SAC Tournament begins on Nov. 5, as the top four teams at the end of the season will host the opening round. The tournament concludes with the semifinals on Nov. 8 and the championship on Nov. 10 in Rock Hill, S.C.