BARBOURVILLE, Ky. --
The Union College women's soccer program kicks off their 2011 season this weekend, and will do so with plenty of new faces on both the sideline and the pitch.
First is new head coach Camila Mendes
, who had been an assistant the previous three years. She takes over for departed head man Jason Lantham, who led the Lady Bulldogs to an impressive 42-14-2 record in his three seasons in the position, winning both the AAC regular and postseason championships in 2009, and a share of the regular season crown in 2010.
On the field, Union will look to try to replace one of the more prolific scorers in school history in Ashley Hall (who scored 20 goals last season), along with starting goalkeeper Patricia Nardy. The Lady Bulldogs, however, will look to answer those questions quickly and soundly, with a talented young group of players aiming to sustain the success the program has had the last few seasons.
"We have a very young talented team," said Mendes. "We have had a great preseason and I am looking forward to have an amazing year. We have a few injuries on the team, but hopefully everyone will be healthy again soon."
The young Lady Bulldogs will look to mix a blend of experience and youth this season. Leading the way for the team is the team's five seniors. Returnees
Leading the midfield for Union will be seniors Nikki Jeck
(Richmond, Ky.), Chelsi Walls
(Stanford,Ky.), and Olivia Brock
(Hebron, Ky.), with Walls moving from the front line to the middle this season.
The lone returning forward for Union is senior Stephanie Cagle
(Independence, Ky.), who moves from the midfield after being named to the All-AAC Second Team in that spot a season ago after starting all 19 matches the Lady Bulldogs played in on the year, scoring a total of 13 points (five goals and three assists). The last senior, Kristina Kirk
(Versailles, Ky.), looks to lead the Union defense. Kirk made a start in each match last year on the defensive end, and was named to the All-AAC Third Team for her efforts.
In goal, the Lady Bulldogs return two keepers in Stephanie Burton
(Queensland, Australia), and Nichole Grindler
(Manteno, Ill.), and add two freshman keepers in Neidra Lundy
(London, Ky.), and Kaitie Crawford
(Jackson, Mo.). Grindler is the only one in the group to log time in goal a season ago, seeing action in four games between the pipes in relief work of Nardy.Newcomers
Union will also look to a vast array of newcomers to the program to log significant minutes on the year, and contribute right away.
On defense, Courtney Hullender (Monroe, N.C.), Kayse Cornett
(London, Ky.), and Laura Jones
(Taylorsville, Ky.) will try to log playing time, while in the midfield Kayla Langen
(Burlington, Ky.), Kelsey Jones
(London, Ky.), and Jessica Frisby
(Russell, Ky.) will compete with returnees for playing time. Up front, Union added three forwards to bolster the offense in Sofie Jorgensen
(Oksbol, Ribe, Denmark), Helen Weber
(Marburg, Germany), and Jessica Perkins
The Lady Bulldogs' schedule kicks off the season this weekend when they host the 2011 Lady Bulldog Classic at Burch/Nau Field, hosting Cumberland (Tenn.) on Friday, and NCAA Division II member Barton (N.C.) on Sunday. Union then finishes off their opening three-match home stand with a tilt verses Georgetown (Ky.) on Sept. 3.
After a two-match road trip at Campbellsville and St. Catharine, Union returns home on Sept. 17 to host their AAC season opener against Reinhardt, followed up by a home match with rival Cumberlands (Ky.) on Sept. 20.
The rest of the way, Union will go through both four straight road matches, then host four straight tilts, culminating with a senior day out-of-conference matchup on Oct. 22nd against Union University. The Lady Bulldogs' regular season finale will be at new AAC member Columbia (S.C.) on Oct. 29th, while the AAC Tournament will begin on Nov. 5.Overall
In all, the Lady Bulldogs will look to not miss a beat this season with a new look and attitude, all the while with their eyes set on competing for another Appalachian Athletic Conference title.
"I feel confident in the team," said Mendes. "Through preseason, the team has showed how well they work together. This team is made up of a group of girls that are willing to sacrifice whatever it takes in order to reach the team goal of success.
"With the great attitudes and hard work we have seen so far, I have no doubt that this will be a successful year for us."