Delayed slightly by Hurricane Dorian, the Francis Marion University women's soccer team will open its 2019 season on Sunday (Sept. 8) with a home match against Lees-McRae College. Kick-off is set for 1 p.m. on Hartzler Field.
Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for students, and FMU students are admitted free. The match will be streamed live online courtesy of the Patriot Sports Network.
The match was originally slated for Saturday, but was pushed back 24 hours to allow for the tropical weather to fully leave the area. The Patriots' season-opening contest at Coker University on Thursday (Sept. 5) has been postponed until Sept. 14 at 4:30 p.m. in Hartsville.
Francis Marion's fall schedule lists 17 matches including nine home contests. FMU will play host to Catawba College on Wednesday (Sept. 11) and USC Beaufort on Saturday, Sept. 21, sandwiched around the re-scheduled trip to Coker.
Fifth-year head coach Lindsey Morgan brings back 16 returnees, including 10 starters, from last season's 5-10-1 squad. The 2018 team lowered its goals against average from 2.81 in 2017 to 2.62 last season. Morgan also brought in five freshmen for the 2019 campaign.
"We've built a good foundation and added the right players to who we currently have here," Morgan said. "We returned a lot of players, not just our captains. As a whole, the leadership, our style of play, and the values we hold have been quickly trickling down from the upperclassmen to our freshmen." When asked about integrating the new players with her returners, she stated, "The clicking as a unit has happened a lot more quickly and cohesively than it did in the past."
With the addition of her five newcomers, Morgan added, "we brought in strong goal scorers that just have the natural ability to put the ball in the back of the net, and that's what they're good at. This will add onto our returning upperclassmen, because we definitely have players who want to and can score goals for us."
When asked what she expects of her upperclassmen heading into the season, Morgan stated, "I expect them to play like they don't have another year left, especially the seniors. They've been here for a while and they are on the same page as the coaching staff and I know they want to win and that they'll use that to fuel their leadership with the freshmen.
"We are very big on positivity and understanding that there are a lot of things that are out of our control, but we want to stay focused on just us and not worrying about everyone else," Morgan said regarding the Patriots' keys to success. "If we stay focused on our positivity, our effort, discipline, and our intensity, and not allowing the worry of other things to get to us, we will be good to go this year."
The Patriot returning starters include; seniors Jessica Garnett and Sierra Cartano; juniors Megan Misuraca, Dayle McEwen, Brooke Kennedy, and Emma Hall; and sophomores Rachael Hennenkamp, Makayla Chavis, Rianna Orello, and Anna Capra. McEwen led FMU in scoring with 16 points (7 goals, 2 assists), while Misuraca tallied nine points (4 goals, 1 assist) and Orello eight points (3 goals, 2 assists). Both Cartano and Garnett have appeared in 47 matches over the past three seasons. Hennenkamp started all 16 matches in goal for the 2018 Patriots and registered 99 saves (second-best in the Peach Belt Conference) and a 2.68 GAA. She was named the team MVP following the season.
Other returning players include senior goalkeeper Micahla Kitchen and senior midfielder Carli Gauthier, junior Sarah Moll, and sophomores Kiley Barr, Faith Allen, and Meagan Stassi. Barr matched Orello for third on the team in scoring with eight points (2 goals, 4 assists).
Newcomers to the Patriot squad include; forward Zenia Nava (Thomson, Ga.), forward Maggie Cross (Anaheim, Calif.), forward Bridget Barrett (Cary, N.C.), and Wando High School teammates forward Brooke Hopson and forward-midfielder Alyssa Rosado, both from Mt. Pleasant.
The PBC Tournament will begin on Nov. 12, with the semifinals on Nov. 15 and the finals set for Nov. 17 in Evans, Ga.
The Patriots shared the PBC Team Sportsmanship Award for women's soccer in 2018, and seven different Patriots were selected to the PBC Women's Soccer All-Academic Team (Cartano, Gauthier, Garnett, Hall, Misuraca, Moll, and Kylie McElroy).