The USC Upstate women’s soccer team get its first taste of live competition Monday at 7 p.m. when the Spartans travel to Buies Creek, N.C., to face Campbell in an exhibition game from the Eakes Athletic Complex.
Expectations are as high as ever for an Upstate squad that enters the 2015 season with 10 starters returning and a roster that features 11 upperclassmen. Headlining that group is senior goalkeeper Ellen Bright, who paced the Atlantic Sun Conference in 2014 with 45 saves during league play. Overall, Bright registered 83 saves and stood second in the league with 5.2 saves per game. The Fort Mill, S.C., native was part of a back line that turned in the best goals against average in school history during the Division I era.
“I’m really excited to get started and see how we look in a game setting,” Bright said. “I am encouraged with the level of play so far this preseason and I really do believe this will be a great season.”
Fellow senior Alexa Hone logged a team-high 1570 minutes last season and was only one of three Spartans to start all 17 games in 2014. She served as the anchor of a 2014 Upstate back line that allowed 14 fewer goals and 108 fewer shots than in 2013.
“We all can’t wait for this season to begin, and Monday is a chance for us to step onto the field and play for one another,” Hone said. “I wouldn’t want to spend my senior year with another group of girls. It says a lot about a team when you have 26 girls come together to believe and invest in one common goal, and we won’t stop until me reach it.”
Senior Haley Gethin leads the Upstate attack from the midfielder and is coming off a season that saw her land on the All-Atlantic Sun second team. Gethin started all 17 games and was second on the team with 1456 minutes played a season ago. The Cocoa Beach, Fla., native scored a game-tying goal at Jacksonville and ended the year third on the team with 12 shots and five shots on goal.
“This season there is definitely a different attitude and perspective on how we are going to play and why we are here,” Gethin said. “I am so thankful for the new players coming in because they are talented and will contribute to the culture we are building.”
Kenzie Major enters her final season in a Spartan uniform as one of the top goal scorers in the conference in 2014. In fact, Major ranked four in the league with seven goals and fifth with 15 points on her way to setting a school record for the most points in a season during the Division I era. Major etched her name in the Upstate record books early in the season when she scored four goals to lead the Spartans to a 4-1 victory at South Carolina State. The Rome, Ga., native tied the school record for goals in a game and was one of only 14 student-athletes in the NCAA with a four-goal game.
“I’m really excited for this season because I feel that we have all grown so much since we first arrived on campus,” Major said. “I look forward to going all in with the people I consider my family to see what we can accomplish this year.”
Campbell turned in an 8-8-3 overall record in 2014 and a fourth place finish in the Big South Conference. The Camels, who also reached the Big South semifinals last season, feature a team with eight seniors and 10 newcomers.