SHSU women’s soccer (0-0-2) is taking a new approach for the 2019 campaign after finishing second to last in the Southland Conference last year. The Bearkats were picked to finish in 10th place in the preseason poll, but head coach Tom Brown is very optimistic about the team’s potential.
“I do have high expectations for this team,” Brown said. “We are very young, with about one-third freshmen and one-third sophomores. It will take some time for them to get comfortable in the college game. I really like this team, and we will keep working hard in training to improve each day.”
SHSU dropped their season opener last week 3-0 against a talented University of Houston squad. They faced Gonzaga on Sunday and played an impressive first half. Thanks to Sammi Mayock’s 17th-minute goal and freshman Tatum Krueger’s six saves, the Bearkats took a 1-0 lead into halftime.
With time winding down, Gonzaga scored in the 81st minute to tie the game 1-1 on their tenth shot on goal of the match. They took a 2-1 lead in extra time to hand the Kats a heart-breaking loss.
According to Brown, only three players who started against Houston in the home opener played significant minutes last year. That means there are plenty of new faces on this squad. One of them is freshman transfer Alyssa Austin from Mississippi State, a midfielder who is looking to make a quick impact in her first season at SHSU.
“Our biggest challenge is to get this group of young players playing on the same page each game and being consistent,” Brown said. “It takes time for this to evolve. Our younger players need to understand this is a different arena than they played in high school. It takes more commitment to training, watching videos and taking care of yourself. Our players have been moving in the right direction, and I am excited to see the end product.”
Despite the influx of youth, there is no shortage of veteran leadership on this team either. Senior forwards Carlota Suarez Crespo and Hannah Dupin certainly have the ability to develop this young core. Crespo started just four games in 2018, but appeared in a total of 16 and really made the most of her time on the pitch. Dupin played a total of 618 minutes last year—finishing the season with 17 total shots and five on goal. She will likely play a larger role this year.
In addition to a talented group of players, the program also added new assistant coach Jorden Smith. She was an assistant at Angelina College and Cisco College and was also the inaugural head coach for both men’s and women’s soccer at Blinn College.
Some competition for starting spots will continue as the young campaign develops, too. Krueger from Legacy High School and sophomore Abby DeLozier will both see time in the net as they battle for the goalkeeper job.
“I think there is competition going on all over the field for playing time,” Brown said. “That includes the goalkeeper position. We want a good healthy competitive atmosphere for all of our players to develop.”
SHSU has a slate full of big games throughout the season even after their first two non-conference matches. On Aug. 29, the Kats will face Texas Christian University who finished in the top five in the BIG 12 conference last season. The conference opener will be against Central Arkansas on Sept. 20— who won the Southland in 2018. A week later on Sept. 27, the Houston Baptist University Huskies who finished second last year come to Huntsville.
To end the regular season, the Bearkats will play their biggest rivals— Stephen F. Austin University— Nov. 1. The Southland Conference Tournament will be Nov. 6-10 in Arkansas.
The Bearkats next match will be their first road test of the season as they travel to Fort Worth to face TCU Aug. 29 at 7 p.m.