The Florida Southern women's soccer team begins the 2017 campaign Friday morning in North Carolina where the Moccasins will play the first of their 17 games this season. (Please note Friday's game against Chowan has been moved to 11 a.m.) It will also mark the Florida Southern debut of new head coach Paul Lawrence, who came on board in January as the fifth head coach in team history. He previously went 35-20-3 in three years at Knox College and led the Prairie Fire to the NCAA Division III Tournament in 2016.
The Moccasins return 21 players, including eight who started at least a dozen games in 2016. Among them are junior forward/midfielder Anna Griessler, the Mocs' leading scorer the last two years, senior defender Juliana Guida, the team MVP in 2016, and senior defender Jess Goedde and senior goalkeeper Helena Norrstrom, who have each started 27 games over the last two seasons.
The Mocs will be looking to improve on their scoring total from last year while continuing to play the strong defense they've typically displayed. The Mocs allowed more than two goals only once last year, and all four starting defenders are back from that unit, which includes Guida, Goedde, and juniors Gaelyn Crowder and Becca Watson. They helped the Mocs compile a team goals against average of 1.26 that was their lowest in four years. Norrstrom, who started every game in goal for the second year in a row, was third in the SSC in saves per game and her .800 save percentage ranked fourth in the school's single season record book. Junior Paige Koetter also stood out in her time between the posts, not allowing a goal in nearly 158 minutes.
Meanwhile, Griessler begins her third year at Florida Southern with eight goals and 18 points in her career and is the first player in team history to lead the team in scoring as both a freshman and sophomore. Sophomores Caitlin Quaempts and Kaitlyn Svopa are back to help the offense too after starting 12 and 13 games respectively in their first seasons, while senior Dominique Cirnigliaro and Kylie Harris have been two of the Mocs' top reserves over the last two years. Also returning for the Moccasins is Izzy Loyd, who tied for the team lead in assists two years ago before missing all of 2016 due to injury.
Florida Southern will play two games on its season-opening road trip to North Carolina before returning to its temporary home at the Lake Myrtle Sports Park in Auburndale for two more non-conference games next week against Embry-Riddle (Thursday at 6 p.m.) and Tampa (Sunday at 7 p.m.).