Columbus State Women’s Soccer Season Outlook
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Columbus – Since starting the women's soccer program at Columbus State University, winning has been a constant term associated with the Lady Cougars. Outside of their first season, 2004, CSU has won at least a share of the Peach Belt Conference regular season championship all six years since and has won four PBC Tournament Championships during that same span.
This year however could be the most challenging year for head coach Jay Entlich. With the departure of seven starters lost to graduation and the top reserve also graduating, there are a lot of big shoes to fill to keep the winning tradition alive.
"This will be the most challenging year we have had in quite a while here," stated Entlich. "We have had such a veteran team the past several seasons, everyone knew their role and we knew what to expect from the players. This year it is a bit of the unknown as we are molding this team together."
Five of the eight graduated seniors have earned All-Peach Belt honors and a sixth was the PBC Tournament MVP during one of the championship seasons. Four have played in at least 90 games including Stephanie Parrish, the program's all-time leader in goals and points.
Helping soften the blow of last year's senior laden team departures will be the return of All-American Stephanie Lowery, the Lady Cougars leading scorer a year ago. Lowery re-wrote the single-season record book as she set all-time marks in goals scored (19) and points (43) while earning All-America laurels by two different organizations. She was also named the Daktronics Southeast Region Player of the Year as well as co-Peach Belt Conference Player of the Year.
Also returning to the pitch will be All-Southeast Region honorees Willi Babillis and Kansas Bayly along with two-year starter Catherine Lovin. All three players were an essential part to a defense that allowed just 12 goals throughout the entire season, a school record for fewest goals surrendered in a season. Columbus State also posted 15 shutouts in 2010, the sixth most nationally.
Between the pipes for the majority of the season was Babillis who posted five lone shutouts and assisted in the other 10 along with junior Mary Mancin. Babillis set single-season school records for the highest save percentage (.909%) and lowest goals against average, 0.41. She started her collegiate career without allowing a goal during her first 246 minutes in net and had two more streaks in which she kept a blank sheet for over 300 minutes. Mancin was nearly as impressive as she went 9-1 for the team including picking up the win in the PBC Tournament Championship match.
Bayly made an immediate impact during her freshman campaign as well as she scored the game-winning goal in her first collegiate match. The Lilburn, GA native scored three goals and picked up two assists on the year, playing in 16 games as a result of a concussion. Lovin moved from the backline to a holding-midfielder position for the Lady Cougars last season assisting an already formidable defense that got much stronger. She tallied three assists and will be looking to be more of an attacking force this coming year.
Brown, who dealt with a nagging injury in 2010, was a key reserve for CSU a year ago seeing action as an outside midfielder and back. During her freshman season in 2009, Brown was an All-Southeast Region defender as she started 20 of the 22 games she played in. Husted was one of the key offensive reserves for CSU a year ago appearing in all 22 games including one start. The junior scored five goals on the year including the lone goal in a 1-0 victory over UNC Pembroke to start conference action.
Ziadie saw more and more playing time as the season went along including starting the final seven games of her freshman season. The defender scored back-to-back game-winning goals on the road versus Tampa and North Georgia during the Lady Cougars 10-game winning streak. She was also named the PBC Tournament Most Valuable Player after Columbus State outscored its opponents 12-2 in the tournament.
A host of Lady Cougars from last year's 19-2-1 team return who are all vying for significant playing time include Jaci Carithers, Kylie Donohue, Jackie Ellis, Amy Lee, Ashley Miller, Paige Placido and Amber Wright. Miller was the leading scorer out of the bunch knocking in a pair of goals and also assisting on two while Ellis netted one goal and registered two helpers. Carithers, who has appeared in 29 games during her first two seasons in a CSU uniform, has had an outstanding preseason camp and could fill one of the defense positions vacated by the graduated seniors.
A very talented recruiting class should help sustain the level of excellence Columbus State has reached since its inception. Freshmen Kiana Nicholson and Chelsea Person, teammates on the Concord Fire club team, along with Kelsey Pelletier will all look to provide an offensive punch to a team that lost over half of its goals scored last season. All three led their respective high schools to two region championships and received numerous personal accolades. Another offensive weapon for the Lady Cougars will be Josefin de Broen, a transfer that led Darton College to the District F finals.
Adding to the midfield and defensive depth will be newcomers Casey Davis, Christine Kelly, Shea Wilby and Samantha Heald while Katlin Stephens will look to earn playing time in goal.
"All of the new players have come in with a great work ethic and willingness to put in the effort needed to keep us at a high level," stated Lovin. "We will need them along with everyone who returned to have a successful season."
Columbus State will enter the season ranked sixteenth nationally in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Preseason Poll. For the first time since 2006 the Lady Cougars were not selected as the preseason favorites to win the conference crown.
"There are a lot of talented teams in the Peach Belt [Conference] who returned a lot of their starters," commented Entlich. "We are the mystery team and I am okay with that. It allows us to finally not have the target on our back and not have so much pressure on the younger players as they get adjusted to the college game."
"It adds a little bit of extra motivation for us," said Lowery. "There has been a great tradition started here at Columbus State and we want to keep that going."
The Lady Cougars open the season this Friday, September 2, when it takes on Southern Indiana for the first time in school history in the Pioneer Invitational hosted by Tusculum College. CSU will play their first home match on Friday, September 9 as it welcomes in PBC foe UNC Pembroke.