North Alabama’s start-up Division I program a season ago made their first year memorable as they tore up competition all the way to the ASUN postseason tournament. What can the women’s soccer team do even better in year two?
In their first Division I year, the Lions finished with a 11-9-1 record. However, North Alabama finished 3-4-1 in ASUN conference play. They started the season with a 5-0 winning record before the recorded their first loss on the road against Vanderbilt 4-0.
The Lions lost six seniors from last years team and is counting on seven returning seniors to fill their void and provide leadership for the team. The Lions also added nine incoming freshmen to help bolster its squad.
“The biggest thing our team has this year that we lacked last year is confidence,” said senior midfielder Shelby Wall. “Going into last season the team didn’t know what to expect but after last season we definitely have confidence within ourselves. We know we can play and compete in D-I."
The Lions go into 2019 with a 19-game slate that includes two exhibitions to start off, before they can make the ASUN tournament. North Alabama will play eight ASUN opponents near the end of their schedule.
“We need to put emphasis on team chemistry,” Wall said. “If we get the newcomers to buy into our teams work ethic then we will have a very strong chance of making it back into the tournament. The leadership from the returners combined with the group we brought in, I think our chances of making it back are strong.”
The road back will be challenging in facing teams such as Ole Miss, Lipscomb, Chattanooga, and NJIT. The Lions were shut out against Lipscomb and Chattanooga and drew with NJIT. Ole Miss will be a new face they will see this year as they play their second SEC team in two years.
“We play Ole Miss at the start of the season which will definitely be a tough game.” Wall said. “After that we get into the remainder of our non-conference games which will help us prepare for our conference games. Almost all the teams in our conference are solid so the majority of all our games will be challenging but our team is definitely up for the challenge.”
The team starts in Oxford on August 22 for their first game and will play their home opener against Chattanooga on August 30. They will play two consecutive home games before traveling to Alabama A&M. The Lions first conference game is at home against Florida Gulf Coast on Sept. 26.