On Oct. 30, the Saint Leo University Women’s Soccer team claimed their second regular season Sunshine State Conference (SSC) Championship in the program’s history (with the first being earned in 2011). With seven victories, one loss, and one tie in the SSC games, the Lions were nearly unstoppable. After being tied for a while with the rival team from the Nova Southeastern University, the Lions were able to beat Nova, ranked number nine, on their home field to take the first spot in the season standings.
Overall, the team had a score of ten wins, three losses, and one tie. With confidence, the women’s team was able to maintain a fast, offensive play which helped them beat Palm Beach Atlantic University. With the win of the regular season, the Lions will host the SSC tournament and is automatically qualified for the semi-final.
“I am happy for the seniors to earn this win and SSC title. It was a great team effort, as well as all season. The girls played hard and we look to the SSC tournament at home this week,” said Head Coach Ged O’Connor.
For the Women’s soccer team, this marks a real comeback season after struggling the previous year from many injuries. In the previous year, the team was only able to win five games, while having five losses in the SSC play. With some anger in their stomachs, the Lions returned stronger and better to their 2016-17 season.
“Overall, after the disappointment of last season, the players first understood the importance of coming into the season in good physical condition. We have a strong cast of leaders within the program and a large number of upperclassman who understand the physical demands of this league. Working hard on a daily basis and still paying attention to the basics of looking after your body and preparing yourself for the upcoming training sessions have been invaluable this year,” said O’Connor.
The coaches’ hard work and dedication paid off with a good recruiting year and eight freshmen joining the squad. The key players were able to stay healthy and, for the most part, without injuries.
The last regular season match on the Lions’ home field also marked senior day for the Lions that contributed multiple years to the program. Rakeisha Sealey, Selena James, Kelsey Bare, Genevieve Gignac, Kristin Nerman, Alejandra Muro, and Arielle Kabangu are the seven seniors that contributed massively to the program over the last four years.
Both Gignac and Kabangu were able to score on senior day with an assist by James and Kabangu. Gignac, who was named the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) All-Region second team as a freshman has a total of 25 goals in her four year college career.
Arielle Kabangu has been the most decorated player for the last few years. As a freshman, she was named SSC Player of the year, offensive player of the year, and freshman of the year, while being named an NSCAA All-American and scoring a remarkable 22 goals. In the following years she continued with many weekly SSC Athlete of the week awards, and further honors on Conference, Regional, and National level. As of now, she has a total of 64 goals with a couple of more games left to score.
After winning the regular season conference championship and beating number nine, Nova, the Lions earned a first place ranking in the South region. On top of that, they climbed to a tenth place ranking by the NSCAA.
“We are confident going into every game, however every single team that we play is very good. We have had a good year, we need to make sure that we are not complacent moving forward. We still have goals that we want to achieve that we have still yet to achieve. We still have a long way to go, but we can see the quality and depth within the program and there is a great deal of work that the players do on a daily basis,” said O’Connor.
Well prepared and with a lot of confidence the Lions are looking forward to the conference tournament on their home field. After that the Lions will move on to the Regional games against the best team from the south region that come from five states. These games are all K.O. games, which means that one loss means the out for the season.
“Our goals are to compete to try and win the double, which is winning the regular season and the tournaments. From there, we will be in a much better position to make the NCAA tournament and ideally host the tournament. From there, it is winning one game at a time which will take us further and further into the national tournament. We don’t want to look more than one game ahead as we understand the importance of winning the game coming up. There is no point in looking to tomorrow if we can take care of today. Ultimately, a national title is a dream for every player, and it is something that we are continuing to strive to work for. We will do our best to get there,” Head Coach Ged O’Connor said about their goals for the post season play.