Great anticipation welcomes in the 2006 season for the Union University Lady Bulldog soccer team. The growing process continues with head coach Brandon Boylan and staff as he and his squad enters their second season of varsity competition. Last season, the Lady Bulldogs posted four wins (4-11-1) in their inaugural campaign.
Union has 36 ladies on campus this fall to help form both varsity and junior varsity teams. Of the 37 players, only 12 are returning form last season. However, included in those 12 returning players, is 90 percent of the teams total offense in 2005. In addition, Union has added 24 newcomers, some of which will add instant offense to this young program.
“We are looking to improve our play and therefore our record from a year ago,” states Boylan. “With our talent on the field and our schedule, we should be able to make grate strides towards competing our league very soon.”
And that in itself will be a tough task as the TranSouth boast the 2005 NAIA National Women’s Soccer Champion in Martin Methodist College (Tenn.) And then, as if that was not enough, the conference’s expansion has added national tournament participant Bethel College (Tenn.) to the fold. With the addition of Bethel, along with Lambuth University (Tenn.), the conference has nine teams all fighting for the league crown. In the preseason poll released by the coaches, Union is ranked sixth, which is above three teams that Union lost to last season. This shows the respect and attention gained from the offseason recruiting efforts of Boylan and his staff.
Union’s senior class is made up of just two players, Nicole Simpson and newcomer Gina Orosz. Simpson saw a lot of playing time last year which will be valuable this season she will provide much needed experience and leadership to a very young team.
Six juniors dot the roster, all of which are returning from 2005. Leading the way is Cheslie Tharpe, last year’s leader in goals (4), assists (4), points (12), and shots (41). Also returning are defenders Lauren Williams and Amy Anderson (pictured below); Midfielders Charity Carter and Cynthia Medina; and goalie Rachel Watson. Like the seniors, these with one season under their belt will be very valuable in leading this young program to the next level.
The sophomore class boast seven players, five of which return from last season. Jennifer Hollis, Megan Okerson, Emily Rawls, Daren Webb, and Nikki Burau (pictured left) each are back for a second seasons. Burau was tied for the team high with four goals scored as a freshman. Lauren Jackson and Caitlin Zimmerman join the squad as newcomers this year. Zimmerman comes in as a transfer from Western Kentucky and will be expected to provide more offense to this team for the next three years.
By far the largest class on the roster is the freshman class with 21 players. Those standing out early that will be expected to contribute early are goalie Laura Pla, defender Roxanna Skelton, and midfielders Brooke Walker and Cara Pasley. The other freshman include Alicia Bennett, Meagan Tobosa, Katie Moser, Maggie Paredes, Abigail Williams, Candice Blackard, Brittany Pearce, Jill Landers, Rachel Fillinger, Bethany Chiarot, Katelin Dirksen, Amberly Armstong, Caitlin Clinger, Kelly Harris, Ruby Williams, Katie Sale, and Lauren Parlow.
In a tough conference like the TranSouth, the young Lady Bulldogs will learn against some of the best in the NAIA. Sometimes that can be rough going but with the non-conference schedule and the amount of progress already made plus that which is expected, Union hopes to improve on the four wins from a year ago and push for a .500 record or better in 2006.