By Daniel Johnson, Sports Editor
They may be picked to finish last in the Lone Star Conference, but if the women of the inaugural ACU soccer team have anything to say about it, their first season will not be a write-off.
“We don’t want to be considered the first-year team or have this season be a building year,” sophomore midfielder Jordan Reese said. “We definitely want to challenge teams the first time around.”
Despite doubts in ACU’s first women’s soccer team, head coach Casey Wilson said he is confident his team has the potential to make its first season a winning one, and with and a preseason schedule designed to challenge the freshman team made up of high school standouts and transfers with college experience, Wilson’s expectations may not be overzealous.
Preparing for what’s next
ACU women’s soccer team already had a night of firsts. ACU claimed its first win after scoring its first goal when the Wildcats beat Texas Wesleyan 1-0 in ACU’s first official NCAA game Friday.
But what is next may be what shapes ACU’s inaugural season.
The Wildcats have seven preseason games scheduled before it kicks off conference play against Angelo State on Sept. 21, including two games against nationally ranked teams, St. Edwards and Missouri Southern.
Both teams qualified for the NCAA tournament in 2006, and both teams are ranked in the top 25 of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America preseason poll, but Wilson said the tough competition would only make his team stronger.
“Those are the schools that are going to be true tests to get us ready for conference,” Wilson said.
ACU will play No. 19 Missouri Southern at home Sept. 7 and No. 10 St. Edwards in Austin Sept. 14, and the Wildcats are eager for the competition.
“It’s only gonna make us better,” said freshman forward Lyndsey Womack, who scored the first goal in ACU history Friday. “We can’t just play easy teams because we’re a brand new team; we got to learn from each other.”
For freshman midfielder Courtney Wilson, playing ranked teams is a chance to see where ACU needs to set the bar.
“It gives us a taste of where we need to be,” Wilson said. “We know we’re gonna play tough teams.”
An assemblage of talent
With only three full scholarships to work with, Wilson assembled a surprisingly talented roster for ACU’s first season.
Womack and Courtney Wilson were both all-district selections in high school, and they both know what it takes to win.
Womack, who graduated from Longview High in 2006, broke the single-season scoring record for three straight seasons in a row and left the program with a school record of 68 goals.
Wilson, a former Odessa-Permian High School standout,
also had her fair share of success in high school. The midfielder led her team to a District 3-5A championship in 2007, and the Permian Panthers reached the Regional I-5A semifinals twice in her four-year career in Odessa. Womack and Wilson each scored a pair of goals in an unofficial exhibition against Division III opponent Mary Hardin-Baylor Tuesday.
But the freshmen aren’t the only ones that can score.
Reese, a former Abilene High School standout who graduated in 2004, and junior midfielder Jackie Gentile, who transferred from San Jacinto College, are two offensive weapons that Wilson said he expects to contribute to a successful season.
Reese was already attending ACU before joining the team and is one of five girls who tried out for the team in the spring and made the roster for the ’07 season. At Abilene High, Reese was the Eagle’s offensive MVP in 2003 and 2004 and a first team selection in District 3-5A in 2003.
Gentile, a dual athlete for ACU, will play softball in the spring but for now is a one of the few girls on the team with collegiate experience. She was a first team all-Foothill conference selection her freshman season and a second team selection her sophomore season at San Jacinto College.
Reese and Gentile also scored one goal a piece in the exhibition against Mary Hardin-Baylor.
Whether ACU’s inaugural season exceeds or meets the expectations set for them, one thing is certain: it will be a historic one.
“I was talking to Lyndsey [Womack], and I was like ‘Lyndsey, do you realize you are the first person to score a goal for the ACU soccer team,'” freshman midfielder Sadie Barton said. “It’s kind of mind blowing if you think about it.”
ACU’s first home game will be Tuesday at 2 p.m. against Texas-Permian Basin. ACU will play all its home games at the old intramural fields between Edwards Hall and Wells Field.