FMU women’s soccer kicks into high gear

Jessica Imbimbo, Editor-in-Chief

The Francis Marion University (FMU) women’s soccer team looks to turn things around in the 2014 season (LEAD WILL CHANGE FOLLOWING THE RESULTS OF THE HOME OPENER)

Last year, the Lady Patriots ended their season with a record of 2-17.  With that behind them, head coach Frank Pitt believes this year’s team has the ability to progress and be successful in 2014.

“Last year was rough to say the least, but we were very close in a lot of the games and we found ways to let games slip away,” Pitt said.  “This year…I believe we have the quality in the team to get the results and have a marked improvement over last year.”

Much of the team’s success will rest on the shoulders of the seven returning seniors, most of who play major roles on the field.  Senior forward Chanel Harris was the top scorer last year with eight goals. Senior Elizabeth Asare tied with sophomore Tori Whigham for second most goals with three each.

Defensively, senior Sandy Odembo saw nearly 1,650 minutes of play and started every match last season. As a two-year returning starter and team captain, Pitt anticipates more of the same from her this year.

“I expect big things from [Odembo] when talking about leadership and performance,” Pitt said.  “She needs to continue to communicate and lead by example. I expect the other seniors to basically do the same.”

The seniors will not be the only ones seen as key players on the pitch.  Junior goalkeeper Taylor O’Berry, along with junior defenders Kylie Allen and Kristyn Leung, work to prevent opposing attackers in the defensive third.  O’Berry had an impressive 110 saves in 19 games, last year.

Offensively, the Patriot midfielders, which include senior Brittney Smith, junior Arianna Pierner and sophomore Kelley Anthony, are responsible for both possession and attack.  During preseason, Pitt hopes to focus on game tactics and getting organized for their upcoming games.

“My goals are to start off as strong as possible, get the team to play at as high a level as they ever have and have fun,” Pitt said.  “If we can do those things, the results will come our way.”

Recently, seven members of the women’s soccer team were named to the 2014 preseason Independent All-Conference Team as selected by College Sports Madness.  Harris tops the list after being named preseason Offensive Player of the Year in Division I independent programs.

Alongside Harris, Asare, Smith and Odembo, senior defender Kristina Marra also made All-Conference first team.  Pierner and Leung earned second team honors.

As a NCAA Division I sport, FMU women’s soccer faces some tough opponents, including Southeastern Conference (SEC) foe, University of Kentucky on August 29 in Lexington.  That game is expected to be aired on the new SEC Network+.

Pitt knows that individual effort is important, but teamwork will ultimately be the difference between victory and defeat.

“It’s a team game and if everyone’s not on the same page, that’s when we get exposed,” Pitt said.

The Lady Patriot squad’s next home match is set for September 1 against East Carolina University at 7pm.