W-Soccer charting the right course
Young program seeks more progress in 2012
Powell, senior captain, paces Team Purple
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- Second year Head Coach Mandy Fortner, like a sea captain, is beginning to see the fog lift. The young women’s soccer program at Southwestern Assemblies of God University, which started in 2006, is sailing in the right direction.
The team went 4-14 in 2011, including a win in the Central Regional tournament of the National Christian College Athletic Association. Most of the team returns along with five newcomers.
Perhaps for the first time, the Lady Lions’ compass is pointing north along with the prevailing winds of fortune. Formerly listless sails are filling with optimism.
Coach Fortner says that while the team has developed their overall technical ability, fans will likely notice a strong, defensive backline and more speed in their offensive attack.
“We’re improving to the point where we have more skill,” she said this week, “and it’s helped us to have more creativity and confidence in our attack. We’re meshing.”
Last season the Purple Pride “struggled just to get shots off,” said Fortner. “Already I have sensed more urgency to put the ball in the net. We now have players who can create shots, a few from outside the box. That's always a plus.”
SAGU scored only 13 goals in 18 games, one of three teams in the Red River Athletic Conference who averaged less than one per game. Still, tightening the defense is critical in soccer. It lessens the need to score a lot and increases the odds of victory.
The Lady Lions yielded 51, an average of 2.83 per contest. Not stellar, but that was an improvement over the 58 surrendered the season before.
When asked if this SAGU team will be known for offense or defense, the former All-American scorer at Dallas Baptist University said “It’s probably too early to tell. I think we will be solid on defense and only time will tell if we will start scoring lots of goals.”
“It's looking better and we’re continuing to work and to build. It’s coming.”
Last year’s top scorer, Natalie Pena (Dallas, Tx / Tulsa Union HS), is back. So is Lyndi Garrison (Hastings, Mich / Thornapple Kellogg HS), who led the 2010 club in points. She missed last year due to an injury.
The team’s lone senior, defender Jessica Powell (Terrell, Tx / Terrell HS), is the Lady Lions’ only captain. According to Coach Fortner, she will name individual 'game captains' throughout the season as situations rise.
A player who has caught Fortner’s eye is sophomore Vicky Hagemeier (Democratic Republic of the Congo). The returning starter on defense has made tremendous progress according to the coach. “I believe she will do very well for us this year,” she pointed out.
Another key player whose off-season headway is notable is sophomore midfielder Noelle Pugliese (Lee’s Summit, Mo / Lee’s Summit North HS). Her abilities with advancing the ball in the middle of the action has evolved. So has her hard work in stepping up as leader on and off the field, says Fortner.
Pugliese (pug-LEES) and Pena (PAIN-ya) could enjoy breakthrough seasons.
“Nellie has developed a knack for taking and making shots outside the box,” added her coach. “That’s her strong point.” She booted a pair of scores last fall.
“Natalie is also working hard to become even more of a playmaker. She is very skilled and smart with the ball at her feet. I'm hoping the two will work well together this season.”
Amy Lambdin (Stockton, Ca / Elliot Christian), a sophomore midfielder, scored twice and had two assists last year. She was a forward in 2011.
One of two West Coasters on the roster, she is an example of the adjustments needed to improve ball-control in the minefield of the middle.
There are a number of others whose performances on the pitch will define their role.
As for the defense being solid, two of the reasons are the play of Gloria Lozano (El Paso, Tx / Faith Christian) and Powell. Both have great field vision, size and are fearless in a crowd.
Powell has started every game of her career and looks to finish with the Lady Lions program much better than when she arrived.
As for the newbies, four freshmen and a transfer student, the coach described them as “game changers for SAGU.”
They include Kaici Holt (Robinson, Tx / Robinson HS, McLennan Community College), Audrea Davila (Grand Prairie, Tx / South GP HS), McKina Michael (Plano, Tx / Plano West HS), Daniella Tesei (Waxahachie, Tx / Waxahachie HS) and Justine Lopez (Red Oak, Tx / Red Oak HS).
Another, Kenzie McNutt (DeSoto, Tx / Ovilla Christian) will likely redshirt this year.
Between the pipes
Haley Shingleton (Pasadena, Tx / Deer Park HS) and Amber Belisle (Sacramento, Ca / Whitney HS), both sophomores, are listed as the team’s netminders. Shingleton played most of 2011 as the primary goalie, registering three shutouts.
Currently, she is rehabbing a shoulder injury. She is expected back in a few weeks, though the play of Belisle (ba-LIE-yul) may allow Fortner to bring Shingleton on the field, where she scored twice last autumn.
“Amber has been working with a very experienced goal-keeper coach,” praised the coach. “We like what we have seen and heard so far.
“I have heard several refer to her as ‘the most athletic player on our team.’ She’s tall and I think she’s going to do very well. Plus, Haley can really play the field.”
SAGU, who wear all-purple on the road, will introduce new, home white uniforms next month. Many believe that is one of many upgrades and developments to watch for in 2012.
“My goals for the team,” Coach Fortner concluded, are to break all of the records set previously by SAGU women's soccer. I believe we can blow those records away.”
Spoken with sureness like someone with a compass bearing north!
New features for SAGU fans
Two new features have been added this season are sure to be a hit with fans.
All home games will offer LiveStats, a digital play-by-play of the accounts of the action, as well as team and player statistics, all in real time.
Plus, SAGU TV will broadcast two home matches in high definition. Available at no charge on the internet, fans can view the games on computers, iPhones, iPads and other apps.
SAGU is the only NAIA school in the country that airs their livestreamed sporting events in authentic HD.
“This will be great,” Fortner said. “I'm excited to see the response. It is also very exciting for players who have parents in other states!” Those games will be on September 8 and October 20.
Upcoming home dates
The Lady Lions will scrimmage Hill College next Tuesday afternoon, August 28, on-campus at 3:00pm. Their home debut will be a week from Saturday, September 1. They will host Sterling College (Kansas) at 1:00pm.
Labor Day Monday, as has been a recent SAGU tradition, the team will play at home. Southwestern College (Kansas) visits for an 11:00am meeting.