With the new season underway, Saint Leo University’s Women’s Soccer team is overwhelmed with excitement.
After their disappointing loss to the University of Tampa in the Quarterfinals of last year’s SSC tournament, they are hoping not only to get revenge on UT but also to make history.
Their 7-8-2 overall record is not what Head Coach Ged O’Connor expected, but he stayed upbeat about this season.
“We have a large upperclassmen class who are helping to lead by example but the biggest improvement over last year is the mentality, the mindsets, and the determination that the players have to focus on the little things on a daily basis,” O’Connor said.
He hopes the new and improved 2016 Lions will bring back some hardware to show off. He hopes to continually push the players to make them more accountable people both on the field and in the classroom.
“We want to excel first and foremost in the classroom just like we did in spring with a team GPA of 3.2,” said O’Connor.
Some of the returning players O’Connor spoke of were disappointed with the outcome of the previous season as well. However, they were optimistic for the new season. Dislike for the Spartans over in Tampa runs deep in the Lions; this being said, all of the Women’s Soccer team is looking to give them a taste of their own medicine.
Cassidy Place, a redshirt sophomore from Sunlake, FL, is a key defenseman for the Lions. After having a great freshman year, playing in 13 games and starting nine of those, she was unable to compete this past year due to tearing her ACL and Meniscus. Her knee is fully recovered and feeling good, but it was difficult not being able to play her second year after a successful first year.
“It was extremely difficult, but my teammates who played in my position did an unbelievable job,” Place said.
Arielle Kabangu, a senior from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, is arguably the best player in all of Division II women’s soccer. She is a two-time DII All-American, Freshman of the year in 2013, and a pick for the All SSC First Team every year she has played.
As the leader on the field for the Lions, she prepares off the field to perform at such a high-level year after year. “It’s really about working hard day in and day out, and trusting my teammates to set me up,” Kabangu said.
Another long time Lion great, senior Genevieve Gignac, also from Ottawa, Canada, has played in 57 matches starting in all but one in her previous three years, making her one of the most consistent Lions on the field.
She hopes to pass that longevity down to the younger players.
“I simply lead by example and in most cases they follow the lead,” Genevieve said. “It should be a long and successful season.”
Only time will tell if the midfielder is right about her expectations, but it is certain that she, Kabangu, Place, and the rest of the Lions are working hard to bring pride to the pride.