BARBOURVILLE, Ky. - Union College head women's soccer coach Jason Lanham returns nine starters off a team that finished 7-8-1 last season. The Lady Bulldogs will open the 2008 season Wednesday at West Virginia Tech. The match is set to start at 3 p.m.
Lanham, who is entering his first year at the helm, has an experienced group of players all around the field with talented newcomers in place to help set the tone. Lanham inherits a honorable mention All-American in Heather Jaques (Manitoba, Canada) and another All-AAC performer in Karla Goncalves (Sao Paulo, Brazil).
In all, the team features nine juniors and seniors with 12 freshmen and sophomores. With the mixture of experience and newcomers, Lanham and the team look for an exciting 2008 season.
Union returns two goalkeepers who saw playing time last season, Brittany Puryear and Briann Bargo.
Puryear, a junior from Somerset, Ky., saw action in 14 matches with 1,027 minutes played. She recorded 67 saves en route to a 1.84 goals against average. She added the Region XII and AAC Defensive Player of the Week awards in September.
Bargo, a senior also from Somerset, played in 11 matches which totaled 525 minutes. She stopped 22 shots for a 1.03 goals against average.
Ashley Bennett (Las Vegas, Nev.) was on the roster last year, but sat out due to an injury. Lanham looks for her to make an impact and add depth to the unit.
Lanham expects the goalkeeping position to be a highly contested one during the preseason.
When looking at the squad, Lanham looks to the defenders as the strength of the team. All four starters return from last year's team with Goncalves, juniors Ashleigh Mensch (Elizabethtown, Ky.) and Amy Vallandingham (Union, Ky.) with sophomore Jessica Brandner (Independence, Ky.) The quartet held opponents to 27 goals in 17 contest during the 2007 season. Also all four players played in every match last year.
The addition of freshman Jessica Courter (Cold Springs, Ky.) gives Lanham versatility with the backline. Courter also saw time as a goalkeeper earlier in her career.
The group should set the tone for the team according to Lanham. Along with Goncalves' All-AAC capability, Brandner will provide another team leader in the back.
Graduation hit the Union midfield the hardest. Lanham will have to find replacements for Karin Moore and Amanda Weber as the two combined for 10 goals and six assists.
Renata Peixoto (Brasilia, Brazil) and Hannah Goins (Corbin, Ky.) are sophomores that started 15 games each as freshmen. Peixoto scored five goals with four assists in her first year at Union.
Jessica Florence (Frankfort, Ky.) and Yashika Dixon (Lithonia, Ga.) saw time on the field last year as well. Florence netted three goals in ten games.
Katarina Sprunk (Port Charlotte, Fla.), Olivia Brock (Hebron, Ky.) and Melanie Hester (London, Ky.) all will add depth for Lanham and battle for playing time. Sprunk was a part of the program last year while Brock and Hester are newcomers on the Lady Bulldogs' team.
Despite the inexperience, Lanham looks at the midfield as a solid group on the team.
The forwards include Jaques, a NAIA All-American honorable mention who led the Lady Bulldogs with 13 goals and six assists in 2007. In all, the Manitoba, Canada native had five multi-goal games last season.
Ashley Hall (Hazard, Ky.) returns after scoring nine goals in her freshman season. She had two game-winning goals to her credit and added the AAC Offensive Player of the Week honor in September.
The duo of Marcela Salum (Guatemala City, Guatemala) and Chelsi Walls (Stanford, Ky.) enter as freshmen and will fight for playing time.
Lanham commented on how Jaques and Hall will provide a change of pace up front. He added that the addition of Salum and Walls gives him depth and flexibility.