Aug. 16, 2012
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Fifth-year head coach Scott Ebke and his Southern Miss women's soccer team will open the 2012-13 athletic competition season for Southern Miss on Friday as they travel to take on Atlantic Sun Conference member Mercer in Macon, Ga.
Ebke's squad finished with a record of just 4-13-3 in 2011, but the club lost just three seniors and returns their top four goal scorers and three of their four starting defenders. In all, 18 letterwinners return and will mix in with six newcomers for 2012.
"We've had a tremendous off-season program and even better preseason training sessions," said Ebke. "With the experience we have returning from last season combining with the great group of freshmen and junior college transfers, our coaching staff expects to see remarkable improvements in all areas of our game."
Senior leadership will be paramount this season for the Golden Eagles as 2011's leading scorer, Jordan Wagner, and All-Conference defensive star Caitlin Leumas begin their final season as Golden Eagles. For Leumas, who was also an All-Academic Team member, 2012 offers her the chance to break numerous Golden Eagle records for participation and games played. Over her three-year career, Leumas has missed less than 100 minutes of total game time and has started an incredible 53 games.
In Mercer, Ebke's squad will face a team that finished 10-8-2 a year ago with a 3-5-1 record within the A-Sun. Head Coach Tony Economopoulos enters his first season as the team's coach but takes over after the team has qualified for six-straight A-Sun tournaments and has appeared in the A-Sun Championship game in four of the previous five seasons.
The Bears return sophomore Washida Blackman, who tallied four goals including three game winners, returns as one of the team's top offensive threats. In goal, the Bears rotated three keepers last season but return Nikki Atkinson, preseason A-Sun Goalkeeper of the year.
"Mercer is going to present a very tough challenge for our team as we open the season on the road," said Ebke. "Any game on the road is difficult, but when you face a team as talented and experienced as Mercer, it's just an even greater test. I'm excited to get on the field and see how much we have grown as a team, and I know that our team is ready to get the season underway."
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. CT at Mercer's Bear Field in Macon.