Thursday, August 28, 2003
» Week 1 Match Notes
The University of Alabama women's soccer team will hit the road this weekend as they open their 2003 season in Jacksonville, Alabama against the Jacksonville State Gamecocks on Friday and then travel to Birmingham for a Sunday afternoon date with the UAB Blazers.
Alabama Head Coach Don Staley has already seen his team take the field in a pre-season game but this weekend it is for real and he's anxious to get started, especially against two quality in-state rivals.
"I'm excited to a get a chance to watch the kids in a situation that counts," said Staley. "Anytime you go up against in-state schools, you're the biggest match on their schedule."
As if the opening match of the season was not enough excitement, the Gamecocks will be playing their first match in their new stadium.
"There will be plenty of electricity in the air," said Staley. "We have to guard against getting caught up in the atmosphere and come out and play our style of soccer."
The match in Jacksonville will give Staley an opportunity to immediately throw his freshmen into the proverbial fire by seeing how they react to playing in front of an opposing crowd. However, he likes the idea of opening on the road saying that he feels that it is sometimes easier without the added pressure of having to perform in front of the home crowd right off the bat.
The Crimson Tide leads the all-time series between the two schools 2-0, having outscored the Gamecocks 8-1 in their only two meetings. The two schools last met in soccer during the 2000 season, a 3-1 victory by the Tide in Tuscaloosa.
Following the Tide's Friday night match in Jacksonville the team will travel to Birmingham to take on the UAB Blazers Sunday afternoon.
"UAB presents a difficult challenge because (head coach) Paul (Harbin) has helped the program mature to the point where they fear nobody because they've repeatedly played the best teams in the country the last few years," said Staley. "They have great team speed with dynamic personnel up front and at the sweeper position."
Alabama and the Blazers have played each as evenly as possible splitting the series 2-2-1. The two programs split their first two meetings in 1996 and 1997 before playing to a 1-1 tie in 1998. The Blazers defeated Alabama 4-1 in 1999 followed by a two-year hiatus from the series. Alabama tied the all-time series by defeating UAB 3-2 last year. The scoring in all the matches is even at 11 goals apiece.
The Crimson Tide, which is 9-3 in season openers, will have another foe they will have to compete against this weekend, the injury bug. Staley will have to face the Gamecocks and Blazers without the services of four of his starters. Rebecca Baker, Jiselle Decker, Lauren Imwalle and Cally Morrill will all be absent from the field due to injuries.
"The injury situation will give us a chance to find out what kind of depth we have. We must prepare for the entire season, not just two games," said Staley.
The Tide and the Jacksonville State Gamecocks are scheduled for a 7:00 p.m. kickoff Friday night while the Crimson Tide and the Blazers will kickoff at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday at West Campus Field in Birmingham.