Aug. 30, 2012
When: Friday, August 31
Kickoff: 7 p.m. CT
Opponent: South Alabama
Stadium: The Cage
Multimedia: rolltide.com, 90.7 WVUA-FM
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The Alabama soccer team puts its undefeated record on the line as its goes up against instate foe South Alabama on Friday night in Mobile at The Cage at 7 p.m. The Crimson Tide then returns to Tuscaloosa to match up against the Mercer Bears on Sunday, September 2, at 1 p.m., at the Alabama Soccer Stadium.
LAST TIME OUT
Alabama swept a pair of matches this past weekend against two instate rivals. On Friday night, Alabama used a late first half goal from freshman Katie Bourgeois and a beautiful finish by sophomore captain Theresa Diederich to hold off Samford, 2-1, in front of the second largest crowd in Alabama Soccer Stadium history. On Sunday afternoon against UAB, Alabama’s Pia Rijsdijk scored her first goal of the season late in the first half, and then the Crimson Tide exploded with second half goals from Diederich, junior Molly Atherton, and junior Kendall Khanna to knock off the Blazers, 4-0.
WHO TO WATCH
Alabama’s Theresa Diederich led the team in scoring last season with seven tallies on the year, including four on penalty kicks. She has picked up right where she left off this season, as she has goals in her past two matches. Senior defender Meghan Duffy has also provided a spark for the Crimson Tide, as she has two assists on the year, both coming on long throw ins. Alabama has been able to utilize Duffy’s throws to aid in the offensive attack.
SCOUTING SOUTH ALABAMA
The Jaguars of South Alabama enter the match against Alabama with a 2-2 record on the year after splitting a pair of matches at the Bulldog Classic in Starkville, Miss. South Alabama opened the weekend with a 2-0 win over Mississippi Valley State, as the Jaguars held the Devilettes without a shot on goal, the first time they were able to record that feat since 2002. In Sunday’s championship game, the Jaguars were defeated soundly by Mississippi State, 5-0. South Alabama is led by junior defender Tatum Perry, who has two goals on the year for four points, and junior midfielder Clarissa Hernandez, who has four points on a goal and two assists. In goal, the Jaguars are paced by junior Lauren Arnold, who has a 1.87 goals against average and one shutout on the year. South Alabama is led by head coach Mike Varga, who has tallied a 103-118-20 record in his 13 years in charge of the program.
The Bears of Mercer enter the weekend with a 2-1-1 record after splitting a pair of matches in South Carolina this past weekend. Mercer faced off against SEC opponent South Carolina on August 24 and was defeated, 2-0. The Bears were able to bounce back, however, with a 2-0 victory over Charleston Southern on Sunday. Mercer is led by sophomore midfielder/defender Lauren Gassie, who has six points on two goals and two assists. In goal, freshman Maggie Cropp recorded her first career shutout in her first career start in the 2-0 win over Charleston Southern. Junior Nikki Atkinson has played in three matches for the Bears, and has posted a 0.93 goals against average and has also recorded a shutout. Mercer is led by head coach Tony Economopolous, who is in his first season on the Mercer bench.
South Alabama: The two teams have met seven times before, with Alabama holding 6-1 series lead over its instate brethren. The two teams last met in 2009, when Alabama used three goals from Victoria Frederick to defeat USA, 5-1.
Mercer: The two teams will be meeting for the seventh time, as Alabama holds a 6-0 lead in the series. Alabama and Mercer last went head-to-head in 2007, when Alabama came away with a 1-0 victory behind Rosaly Petriello’s late goal.
As a team, Alabama is third in the conference in assists per game with 2.67 assists per contest. Alabama is also tied for first in fewest goals allowed, having given up only one on the season. Alabama goalkeeper Shelby Church is a big reason why, as she has posted a 0.33 goals against average on the year, good for third in the SEC. Alabama’s two shutouts in three games has the Crimson Tide tied for second in total shutouts. Church is also tied for second in the conference with a .857 save percentage and is tied for third with both of Alabama’s shutouts.
The Crimson Tide enters the weekend with a 107-56-11 overall record in Tuscaloosa. Alabama posted a 7-3-1 mark in 2011. 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 in a season on 16 occasions.
Alabama has enjoyed success in non-conference matches under head coach Todd Bramble. In the midst of year five under Bramble, the Tide sports a 21-11-2 non-conference record. In the four completed seasons, Alabama has earned five or more wins three times, while earning four in 2009. UA has sported a winning record under its current manager every season against non-conference opponents.
Alabama entered the 2012 season with some fresh faces in the starting 11. Against Kennesaw State, head coach Todd Bramble started five newcomers, including four freshmen. Junior transfer Shelby Church earned the shutout in goal while rookie Katie Bourgeois scored the lone goal. Fellow freshmen Abby Lutzenkirchen, Kaylee Semelsberger and Merel Van Dongen got the starting nods as well.
A LOT OF OFFENSE
Alabama put together one its better offensive seasons in recent years by scoring 33 goals last season. Most of the scoring came from underclassmen as five of the top six scorers were either freshmen or sophomores. With that young group the Tide returns 94 percent of its goals from a year ago. Theresa Diederich led the way with seven goals while Kendall Khanna and Pia Rijsdijk scored five goals apiece.
LAST SEASON RECAP
Alabama finished 2011 with a 10-9-3 record and its first NCAA tournament berth since 1998. The Crimson Tide won its first SEC tournament game since 2004 and advanced to the SEC tournament semifinals for the first time since 1998. Alabama defeated three ranked teams in a season for the first time ever, as well as both regular season conference champions South Carolina and SEC tournament winners Auburn. Alabama returns eight starters and 14 letterwinners from last season's squad.
SEC PRESEASON COACHES POLL
The Alabama soccer team was picked to finish fourth in the SEC Western Division as voted upon by the conference coaches. Newcomer Texas A&M was tabbed as the division champion as LSU and Auburn were picked to finish second and third, respectively. Overall, Florida was predicted as the league champions, claiming 10 first-place votes, topping Texas A&M's four votes.
SEC PRESEASON WATCH LIST
The SEC unveiled its soccer coach’s preseason watch list. The Alabama soccer team had four players selected as sophomores Theresa Diederich and Pia Rijsdijk, junior Molly Atherton and senior Ashley Willis were selected to the list. Diederich led the Tide with seven goals and was tied for the team lead with 15 points while Rijsdijk closely followed with14 points on five goals and four assists. Atherton paced the squad with three game-winning goals, totaling 10 points on four goals and two assists. Willis returns with the most minutes played of all starters last season and added 10 points on three goals and four assists from the backline.
WVUA TO CARRY ALABAMA SOCCER
WVUA-FM will expand its coverage of Alabama Soccer in the 2012 season, covering both home and away matches this season the station announced. This will mark the first time the student-run station has aired all matches since it first broadcast Crimson Tide soccer in 2003. Josh Zavadil will return behind the mic for his second season as the voice of UA soccer.
Alabama will return to the Alabama Soccer Stadium to face off against the Mercer Bears. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. CT.