Aug. 21, 2014
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The Alabama soccer team will open the 2014 season with a pair of games this weekend at the Alabama Soccer Complex. The Tide plays its season-opener on Friday night when it welcomes Kennesaw State, followed by hosting Memphis on Sunday. Both contests, which are free to the public, will begin at 7 p.m. CT.
The games will mark the first athletics events of the 2014-15 University of Alabama athletics season.
FOLLOW THE TIDE ONLINE
Fans can watch/follow this weekend's matches via the below outlets:
Christopher England (play-by-play on Friday)/Doug Bell (play-by-play on Sunday)
Molly Atherton (analyst)
THE OPENING KICK
• Alabama returns nine starters and 12 letterwinners off last season's squad, which includes four seniors from a year ago. However, the Tide will be a young team as 15 members of the squad are either sophomores (5) or freshmen (10).
• The Crimson Tide returns four of its top five offensive leaders in total points from a year ago. Highlighting the list of returning scorers is senior Pia Rijsdijk (7g, 4a/18 pts), who led the team in goals and points last season. Rijsdijk was one of the top players in league play a year ago. Joining Rijsdijk in the offensive attack will be seniors Merel Van Dongen (4g, 0a), Theresa Diederich (3g, 2a) and Laura Lee Smith (3g, 0a).
• Senior Merel Van Dongen returns for her senior season after missing the final 12 games of last year with a knee injury. She injured the knee in mid-September training with the Netherlands Women's National Team. Van Dongen, who was named the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year and an second team All-SEC performer in 2012, scored four goals in the team's first six games a year ago, including a pair of game-winners.
• Rijsdijk is closing in on the program's all-time shots record, which was set just last year by Molly Atherton. Atherton set the record last year and finished her career with 199 shots. Rijsdijk enters the 2014 campaign with 178 career shots, which ranks second in program history. If she accomplishes the feat, she would become the first player in program history to record 200 shots in a career.
SCOUTING KENNESAW STATE
• Kennesaw State returns 12 student-athletes from last season's 9-9-1 squad. The Owls finished third in the regular season standings and advance to the Atlantic Sun semifinals.
• KSU also welcomes in nine newcomers this season, including six international student-athletes.
• Leading the list of returnees is 2014 Preseason All-Atlantic Sun honorees Alma Gardarsdottir and Nicole Calder.
• Gardarsdottir earned first-team accolades a season ago after leading the KSU backline to rank second in the A-Sun with seven shutouts. Calder, a second-team honoree last year, finished the season ranked second on the team with seven points on a pair of game-winning goals and three assists.
• Other notable returners include redshirt-sophomore Brittney Reed and sophomore Olivia Sturdivant, both of whom were named 2014 A-Sun Fan-Voted Preseason Defensive Player of the Year and Goalkeeper of the Year, respectively.
• Following a 13-7-1 season a year ago, Memphis returns 10 of 11 starters for the 2014 campaign. In all, the Tigers return 15 letterwinners returning and 10 newcomers.
• Sunday's match at Alabama marks the season-opener for the Tigers.
• Memphis led all American Athletic Conference teams with three players selected to the preseason all-conference team. Senior midfielder Kylie Davis, junior defender Diamond Simpson and sophomore forward Valerie Sanderson were named to the 11-player squad. In addition, the Lady Tigers were picked third in the preseason poll of the league coaches.
• Both Davis and Sanderson missed all of training camp as the duo were members of the Canadian U-20 team that advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup.
• Alabama will meet Kennesaw State for the fourth time in series history. It is the third time in the last four years the teams will square off in the Tide's season-opening match (2011 and 2012).
• The Tide owns a 2-1 lead in the all-time series against the Owls, including a 1-1 mark in Tuscaloosa. Bama captured a 1-0 victory in the last meeting between the squads, which took place at Kennesaw, Ga., on Aug. 17, 2012.
• Alabama and Memphis will square off eighth time in series history, with all eight meetings coming in the last nine years. The only season the two teams did not meet was in 2012.
• Memphis owns a 5-1-1 lead in the all-time series, including a 6-0 victory over the Tide in Memphis, Tenn., last season. Alabama's lone win came in the first-ever meeting back on Sept. 2, 2006 (UA won 2-0).
• Senior Theresa Diederich and freshman Lacey Clarida each scored a goal to lead the Alabama soccer team to a 2-0 victory over Mississippi State in exhibition action on Aug. 16 at the Alabama Soccer Complex.
• The Crimson Tide controlled the game throughout, outshooting the Bulldogs, 16-9, including a 9-4 advantage on shots on goal.
• The Mississippi State contest was Alabama's lone exhibition match of the 2014 season. The Bulldogs are one of two teams the Crimson Tide will not meet during the SEC regular season (Texas A&M is the other).
• It was announced prior to the Tide's exhibition match against Mississippi State that junior midfielder/defender Abby Lutzenkirchen will switch jersey numbers.
• Lutzenkirchen, who has worn No. 33 during her previous two seasons with the Crimson Tide, will now wear No. 43 this season.
• The move was made to honor her brother, Phillip Lutzenkirchen, who was killed in an automobile accident in late June.
• Phillip Lutzenkirchen, who was the starting tight end on Auburn's 2010 national championship football team, wore the No. 43 during his collegiate and professional (Saint Louis Rams) career.
HOME SWEET HOME
• The Crimson Tide owns an overall home record of 114-67-11 (.627) coming into the 20th year of the Alabama Soccer Complex.
• Alabama earned its 100th victory in Tuscaloosa with a convincing 7-1 win over Kennesaw State in the 2011 season opener.
• Alabama has only posted three losing seasons on its home pitch and posted a school record nine wins in 1996 and was a perfect 6-0 in 1995. The Tide has won five or more matches at home on 15 occasions.
• Alabama will play its first road games of the season when it travels to the state of Tennessee for a pair of games.
• The Tide will first square off at Austin Peay on Aug. 29, followed by a trip to Middle Tennessee on Aug. 31. Both contests will kick off at 7 p.m. CT.