Soccer Concludes 2015 at UAB.
HATTIESBURG, Miss. -- The Southern Miss women's soccer team plays its last match of the 2015 season on Friday, as the Golden Eagles (4-11-3, 2-7-0 C-USA) take on UAB at 7:00 p.m. in Birmingham.
Led by offensive force Kierstin Bradley, the Golden Eagles will be looking for their first conference win on the road. Bradley has five goals, with four of them coming in C-USA play. Freshman Mary Kate Smith is second in points, earning two goals and providing two assists for the Golden Eagles.
"Kierstin Bradley has been outstanding for us and she continues to get better," head coach Mohammad El-Zare said. "She has battled back after a long spell of injuries. She's not only getting better on the field, but the intangibles she brings in as a student-athlete and a teammate are exceptional.
"Mary Kate Smith has also stepped up for us. She is starting to play her best soccer we've seen this year at the end of the season."
Stephanie Garcia, Somer Jones and Aisa Ribbens have added two goals apiece this season, while Rikke Randrup and Hannah Abrams have notched one each. Breann Hedin leads the squad in assists with three.
"We've had leaders all over the field. Rikke Randrup is stepping up and guiding the team with her experience. Becky McMullan continues to grow and get better. She has shown a lot of maturity for us both on the field and off the field."
The Southern Miss defensive end, led by goalkeeper Brittany Taylor, will also finish out a strong season for the Golden Eagles. Taylor has 93 saves this season and has earned three shutouts against Southern, Mississippi State and Charlotte. As a junior, her 286 career saves are the most in Southern Miss history.
Left back and captain Kay Kay Hypolite, who has started all 18 games and leads the teams in minutes played, will be suiting up for the last time for the Golden Eagles on Friday.
"Kay Kay has been an amazing leader for us, in guiding us through this season and past seasons," El-Zare said. "She's definitely leaving this team moving forward in a positive direction because of her leadership."
Hypolite has also provided two assists this season, including one for the game-tying goal against Jackson State, and another in the Golden Eagles' victory over Southern.
Freshmen center backs Ola Akinniyi and Ashton Stennis have had outstanding starts to their defensive careers, starting all 18 games for the Golden Eagles and helping Taylor earn three shutouts. Akinniyi has also notched an assist this season, giving the cross for Smith's goal late in the second half against UTEP.
"The young group has grown tremendously over this short time. I've had a blast coaching these girls and watching them improve," El-Zare said. "Finishing the season with a win against UAB confirms a lot of the work that we've done, and finishing as high up in the standings is important for building the confidence of the team.
"I feel that these players have shown huge improvements in terms of maturity and understanding what it takes to compete at this level. Getting a result in the final game means they would go into the offseason and the spring on a positive note, and they'd see that we are moving in the right direction and getting better."
Since their first meeting in 1998, UAB leads the all-time series between the two teams, 11-4-1. The Golden Eagles and Blazers faced off last season in Hattiesburg, tying 1-1 in double overtime.
Scouting the Opposition:
UAB: The Blazers (2-13-1, 1-7-1 C-USA) most recently fell to Florida Atlantic, 4-0, last Friday at FAU Stadium. UAB's lone conference win came against Marshall, when they defeated the Herd, 2-1, in double overtime on Oct. 9.