Aug. 15, 2012
BIRMINGHAM, Ala.--- The 2012 UAB women’s soccer team looks to improve upon the 2011 season and attempt a run at both a Conference USA title and a bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Blazers finished 2011 with a 6-12-1 overall record and went 3-7-1 in Conference USA action.
“The biggest thing is that we want to improve from last season, but to go further than that, our main goal is to get to the NCAA Tournament,” head coach Harold Warren said. “Obviously, we have to get better at every training session, every half per game, but we really just want to play with more quality on our soccer.
A major focus for this season will be the team’s mentality and focus.
“We have to have a better mentality, a winning mentality, a killer instinct,” he said. “I came from a place where they win a lot of national championships, and it’s important to have these young ladies have the same type of mentality where they want to get as far as they possibly can. I want them to do big things here. The soccer will take care of itself, but the mentality is everything. If you don’t have the right mentality to succeed, it’s going to be tough.”
“In goal, we’re going to be starting Courtnie Northern, a freshman, and we’re going to be expecting her to do good things and keep us afloat,” Warren said. “Goalkeepers help you win games, and she’s done a good job for us thus far.”
On the defensive side, the UAB squad will start the season with significant experience, courtesy of returners Sam Bradford, a junior, fellow junior Jasmine Kauka, redshirt sophomore Kelsey Waechter, and junior transfer Amy Harrison.
“We’re going to have an experienced back line, which will consist of Sam Bradford, Kelsey Waechter, Jasmine Kauka, and Amy Harrison,” Warren said. “Mary Catherine Combs was a starter last year, but she’s still coming back from injury. Once she comes back, we’ll fit her into the back line.”
The bulk of the Blazer experience will come from an extremely versatile midfield that will also take on the responsibilities in the forward position, led by captains Emma Jane Smith, a senior, and junior Kirsten Ebert.
Smith made 19 appearances in her junior season and started in 17 of those matches. The Jacksonville, Fla. native recorded a career-high three goals, one assist, and seven points during the 2011 campaign, and was also credited with 21 shot attempts, fourth highest on the squad. Smith registered her first game-winning goal in the 4-2 victory over Ole Miss (Sept. 17).
Ebert started in 14 of 16 appearances, and netted her first collegiate goal during her sophomore season during the game at Kennesaw State (Sept. 11). Ebert was named to the Conference USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll and also earned the league’s Academic Medal.
“In the midfield, we’ll probably have two starters returning in Emma Jane Smith and Kirsten Ebert, and a returner that will join them is Megan Collins,” Warren said. “We also expect Johanna Liney to step into a bigger role. A new starter, our target forward will be Abby Phillips.”
For a team with 12 newcomers, 10 of them true freshman, unity along with leadership from the returning players will be crucial for the squad’s success.
“We have a lot of returners that will be starting this year, and they know I expect a lot from all of them,” Warren said. “There’s no one player or two players that we hinge on, all these young ladies, the returners, have had a great spring and should do a good job.”
This year’s freshman class will feature a number of players who should make an immediate impact.
“Isabel Shanteau is a freshman that will come in, and we hope to see good things from her,” Warren said. “Paige Hanks, once she’s healed up, we expect her to make an immediate impact, and Paige Hoffman will give us a big boost in the midfield as well. Others will help us, but these girls will really give us what we need in order to be successful.”
The Blazers’ 2012 schedule features a highly-competitive non-conference slate where the squad will spend six of eight matches on the road. The schedule starts off as UAB faces Oregon State and Oregon on Aug. 17 and 19. UAB will kick off its home schedule hosting in-state foe Alabama at West Campus Field on Aug. 26 before hosting Oklahoma State on Aug. 31.
UAB will conclude the eight-team non-conference schedule on the road, facing Samford and Ole Miss on Sept. 2 and 7, respectively, before traveling to the state of Florida to face Stetson (Sept. 14) and Florida Atlantic (Sept. 16).
Conference USA action begins on Friday, Sept. 21 with the Blazers hosting Southern Miss, followed by a match against UCF on Sept. 23. UAB will remain at home to take on Marshall (Sept. 28) and East Carolina (Sept. 30) before traveling to El Paso, Texas and Colorado Springs, Colo. to face UTEP and Colorado College on Oct. 5 and 7.
The squad will return to West Campus Field on Oct. 12 and 14 to host Houston and Rice before embarking on its final road trip of the regular season, taking on SMU and Tulsa on Oct. 19 and 21.
UAB will wrap up the season at home against five-time defending C-USA champion Memphis on Thursday, Oct 25.
The Conference USA Championship will be held Oct. 31 to Nov. 4 at El Paso, Texas.