Following their fifth consecutive appearance in the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament in the 2012 season, the Mercer women’s soccer team started the 2013 season Wednesday, Aug. 7.
Since then, this year’s newly compiled team has been preparing for not only a repeat appearance in the Atlantic Sun conference title game, but to leave victorious.
Coach Tony Economopoulos has recruited eight freshmen to join the returning Bears, including nine strong starters, for the 2013 season.
Senior Nadja Kolliesuah confirmed the Bears’ ever-improving confidence in the team’s potential this season.
“Last year we lost two very good seniors, but we have good transfers and freshmen coming in this season, giving us a deep bench with a lot of talent. We are ready for any challenge and any competition.”
After establishing a 13 win, record-breaking previous season, the Mercer women’s soccer team has been striving to improve in all aspects of the game.
Kolliesuah commented on their quick and aggressive style of play that they are striving for this season:
“We start strong and want to end the same way. We love to move the ball forward out of our back line and out run the other team,” said Kolliesuah. “We hold each other accountable at practice to go hard in every tackle or 50/50 ball.”
This preseason, the Bears have been focusing on all components of the game. Their emphasis has not only been on the field, but off the field as well. Returning junior and team captain Washida Blackman talked about the importance of team chemistry.
“Our strong points include our work rate and the depth of the team. We train really hard and it translates onto the field. If starters get tired or injured, there’s always someone to step up and perform,” said Blackman. “Another strong point is our team chemistry. We always have fun with each other and that definitely makes it easier to deal with the hardships of being an athlete.”
The Bears are listed in this year’s preseason poll to finish third in the Atlantic Sun Conference. Once again chosen to end up first is Florida Gulf Coast, who previously defeated the Bears in the 2012 season title game.
She was recently voted into the A-sun Conference All Academic team, as well as named an A-Sun All-Academic Honoree, junior Lauren Gassie returns this season with a vengeance.
“I expect us to make it to conference finals again, but this year we hope to win the title. Losing in overtime to FGCU the past two years was tough. This year we are aiming to leave the conference on a high note—grabbing the trophy and running with it,” Gassie said.
Using this as motivation to finish first, Blackman added, “We are aiming to win the conference championship and to carry that momentum into next year’s transfer into the Southern Conference.”
Gassie firmly agreed with classmate Blackman by stating that Economopoulos has brought in a very talented and hard-working group of freshmen along with a junior transfer, Sarah Daane, who will be great additions to the team.
Through fitness testing and preseason training, this group of student-athletes has proven to the team why they were brought here to compete.
“We feel confident as a whole and can’t wait to prove the A-Sun preseason polls wrong,” said Gassie.
Kolliesuah finished by saying that their goal this season is to get two rings: one in the regular season and the other in the tournament.
The Bears will kick-off their 2013 competitive season when they take on Eastern Kentucky in a home exhibition match. The match will be held at Bear Field on Aug. 13 at 4:00 p.m.