MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. – The Georgia College & State University soccer program plans to mix in the old with the new this season, as the Bobcats welcome new head coach Hope Clark to take the helm. Back are eight starters from a team that finished third in the Peach Belt Conference (PBC), including four former All-PBC selections.
“This is one of the deeper teams I’ve ever coached,” admits Clark. “And that has me excited about our options against different lineups. Our fitness as always is key. Once we’ve got that down, we’ll know where we stand.”
Stifling defense has been the hallmark of the Bobcat soccer team for the last few seasons, and this year’s squad preview starts with defense as well.
The first All-American in program history, Mary Rob Plunkett (Augusta, Ga.) returns for her senior season. She allowed just a 0.59 GAA a year ago, adding in a .896 save percentage. Plunkett has twice been named all-conference, and is a “talented keeper with impressive size” according to Clark.
Freshman Taylor Mulryan (Cumming, Ga.) redshirted an injury-riddled 2009, but did see limited action. “Taylor is hungry and extremely coachable. Her athleticism will allow her to challenge Plunkett, advancing the success of our goalkeepers.”
Two All-PBC backs return to anchor the defensive line. Senior Jessica Binkowski (Cumming, Ga.) and junior Tawny Moffat (Peachtree City, Ga.) both know what it takes to be successful in Division II soccer. A two-time all-conference choice, Binkowski provides “great senior leadership” with “exceptional speed that allows her to help the attack.”
Moffat is a “surprising player” according to Clark. She’s a battler that is “composed on the ball” and strong in the air.
Another starter back to the defense is sophomore Becky Knoll (Elk Grove, Ill.) after seeing 15 starts in 2009. “Becky is a dynamic center back. She’s my General out there, with great communication and organization to our defense.”
Another starter back is sophomore Jamie Colcord (Marietta, Ga.) who spent time as both a defensive-mid and at back. She is “strong and physical, getting into the attack very well”. Colcord netted the game-winner in the 2-1 overtime match with Barry University.
Sophomore Haley O’Hayer (Savannah, Ga.) is a top-notch utility player for coach Clark, as she can excel at multiple positions both in back and on the front line. O’Hayer utilizes her hard work, fitness and speed to her advantage. Senior Kayla Emerson (Fayetteville, Ga.) is in for another utility role, and could see time on all three lines. She has good speed and is well skilled.
Sophomore Amanda Veillon (Lilburn, Ga.) will be a contributor at outside back or a defensive center mid, and brings a great grade school pedigree from Parkview High.
Slotted for time at center back, outside back or defensive mid, freshman Anna Barrow (St. Simons, Ga.) is a composed player that “needs growth tactically”. Classmate Sarah Yoder (Woodstock, Ga.) “needs experience playing at the faster pace, but is a solid defender with good 1v1 skills.
Two-time all-conference pick Ally Treat (Fayetteville, Ga.) is quite possibly the top midfielder in the PBC, a “steadfast and composed” competitor who is “dominant in the air”. She’s not afraid to pull the trigger to help the offense, as the midfielder tallied a goal and four assists a year ago.
Junior Karen Bonilla (Manassas, Va.) is one of the top players on the team, according to Clark. Savvy and creative with the ball, Bonilla helps out on both sides with her vision and ability to “hit the switch”.
Freshman Taylor Yee (Alpharetta, Ga.) is an outstanding freshman making a mark on her coach in the early preseason with her skill. Yee is a “fighter, with excellent vision and passing precision”. Rookie Brittaney Borror (Evans, Ga.) can “hammer the ball, and also is technically sound” and will make an impact this season if she can work better off the ball and on defense.
Now in her second season as a Bobcat, Olivia Holden (Fishers, Ind.) is a well-skilled offensive midfielder with good 1v1 ability and fluidity on the ball. Junior Leah Frazer (Mississauga, Ontario) is a strong 1v1 defender, and is “a sound and composed player”.
Senior Kelli McLane (Lawrenceville, Ga.) continues to battle back from injuries that kept her out of all but five games in 2009, and Clark is hoping to use her “vision and skill as well as her creativity” in the attack.
Also a member of the Bobcat tennis team, sophomore Michelle Lingner (Dunwoody, Ga.) joins the soccer squad for the 2010 season. A “versatile player with good skills”, Lingner hopes to shake off the rust of a year off of competitive soccer with her high work rate.
Junior Megan McAlpin (Newnan, Ga.) returns after leading the 2009 squad with five goals and six assists. McAlpin was the offensive catalyst for the Bobcats and she “has a never quit attitude, continually working hard for her teammates”. Sophomore Anna Wierzbicki (Newnan, Ga.) had a pair of goals and two assists in her freshman season, and is a talented “ball control player with solid 1v1 vision and good work at the point of attack”. The sophomore will work on getting on frame at the final attack.
Senior Jessica Newland (Hiram, Ga.) will look to contribute with her experience and leadership qualities. The senior has four goals and three assists in her career.
Freshman Alex Knight (Loganville, Ga.) is quite possibly the most talented 1v1 offensive player on the team, “very creative and flashy”. Another rookie, Allie Schechner (Wading River, N.Y.) will make a late-game impact with her strength and power.
Freshman Stephanie Andino (Johns Creek, Ga.) has been “one of the best surprises” of the preseason. With “fantastic touch and composed attitude in the final third”, Andino will battle for a starting spot. Rookie Katie Taylor (Sharpsburg, Ga.) is a “bright player with good 1v1 skills and a high workrate”.
The Bobcats struggled to score at times in the 2009 season, leading to 14 total overtime periods and a 1.02 goals scored average. Clark plans to address the scoring punch in 2010.
“The build-up is there, we need to work on playing quicker and not holding the ball as much,” she said. “We need impact players, not role players. Previously this team was interested in what was safe. We need to take risks and go to the goal. We have new players that are going to make an immediate impact, as well as returners that have already stepped up their game.”
Bobcat soccer kicks off the regular season Friday, Sept. 3 at noon facing Florida Southern College at the Little Feet South Florida Shootout in Boca Raton, Fla. Live stats are available at www.GCSUBobcats.com .
The Georgia College Department of Athletics, back-to-back winners of the PBC Commissioner's Cup, sponsors 10 varsity athletic programs at the NCAA Division II level. As a Division II program, Bobcat Athletics prides itself on balancing the life of the student-athlete, evidenced by the teams’ multiple appearances in post-season competition as well as documented academic success and community-service involvement. Sign up at www.twitter.com/GCSUBobcats for up-to-the-minute reports, and visit www.GCSUBobcats.com for more information, and to nominate your favorite former Bobcats and Colonials to the GCSU Athletics Hall of Fame.