BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The Birmingham-Southern women's soccer team is fresh off posting the most wins in program history last season and Head Coach David Di Piazza is ready to take the momentum to a Southern Athletic Association championship entering his third year at the helm.
"I'm really excited about this team," said Di Piazza. "We have really started making progress in terms of the culture of the program. The thing that makes this team so special is the team chemistry. I am really optimistic and excited about the potential of the team.
BSC brings back senior captain Megan Moser (Mandeville, La./St. Scholastica Catholic HS) in the midfield and well as fellow senior and United Soccer Coaches All-South Region selection and SAA player of the year Taylor Andrews (Watkinsville, Ga./Oconee County HS) up front. Moser appeared in all 19 matches. Andrews finished the year ranked nationally in five categories, leading the league in two.
"[Megan] is the engine that makes our team go," Di Piazza noted. "Obviously, Taylor running our front line, is a massive boost to our attack. he's massively important. Not only does she score goals but she is always a threat with her set pieces."
Also returning on the Panthers offense are Abby Kay Choate (Tifton, Ga./Tift County HS) and Sydney Barrow (Birmingham, Ala./Indian Springs HS). Choate was the SAA Newcomer of the Year and earned all-region honors after finishing second on the team in goals behind Andrews. Barrow was an all-conference forward who started all 19 matches for the Panthers.
"We're expecting them to come back and have great seasons," Di Piazza added about the midfielders. "Sydney came up big for us in some games. She was key to our success and linking our forwards."
Returning in goal is sophomore Blakley Jones (Tuscaloosa, Ala./Holy Spirit Catholic HS). A first-team all-conference keeper, Jones started 18 of the 19 matches she appeared in, putting in over 1,300 hours of work on the pitch. She finished the year ranked nationally in three categories.
"In soccer, if you don't have a good goalkeeper, then you don't have a chance," said Di Piazza. "Having Blakely makes us instantly competitive with anybody."
"We're expecting [Kirby] to play a big role defensively or us this year," said Di Piazza. "And I'd say Emma's capable of scoring a lot of goals. She's a good distributor."
The Panthers open 2018 on the road at Talladega College Friday, Aug. 31 with a 5 p.m. start. Their home opener will be Friday, Sept. 7 against Covenant College at 7 p.m. The Panthers begin their run for a SAA title on the road in Memphis when they face Rhodes College on Saturday, Sept. 29. It'll be a doubleheader with the men's team with the women kicking off at 3 p.m.
"Piedmont, Covenant, and Huntingdon are going to be tough," said Di Piazza of the non-conference schedule. "Conference wise, the usual teams will present us with challenges. Even though we have a young team, I'm optimistic we're going to have a really good season."