BARBOURVILLE — The Union College women’s soccer team opened its 2015 season on Wednesday night. The Bulldogs are trying to recover from back-to-back sub .500 records since the 2006-2007 seasons.
The Bulldogs finished with a 7-9-1 overall record and a 2-7-1 record in Appalachian Athletic Conference action a season ago. Head coach Camila Mendes expects her mix of veterans and youth to get the Bulldogs back on the winning track.
Union returns 10 players from last season including All-AAC Second Team goalkeeper Kendall Ellington (junior/London). Ellington collected 92 saves and ranked 35th nationally in saves per game (6.57) during the 2014 season.
The Bulldogs have the pleasure of having two quality goalkeepers on the squad as Juliana Schardong (sophomore/Porto Alegre, Brazil) returns. She collected 48 saves in eight matches and was named AAC Defensive Player of the Week for the week of Sept. 22, 2014.
The Bulldogs will count heavily on midfielder Sharika Ingram (senior/Manchester, Jamaica) on the offensive side of the pitch. Ingram is the only returning Bulldog with a goal scored last season. She ranked third on the team with five goals and third with three assists in 2014.
The defensive side of the pitch is as experienced as most in the AAC, as the Bulldogs return five experienced players on defense.
Morgan Hiles (senior/Florence), Kayla Mundell (junior/Fayetteville, North Carolina), Bobie Bramlage (sophomore/Taylor Mill), Stephanie Miller (junior/Farragut, Tennessee), Jordyn Powers (sophomore/Brandenburg) and Krysten McGuinness (sophomore/Middletown, Ohio) give Mendes a much needed veteran presence on defense as the Bulldogs only allowed 35 goals a season ago. Hiles, Mundell, and Bramlage started all 17 games for the Bulldogs in 2014.
Mendes’ squad will sport 15 new faces on the 2015 roster, including three transfers. Jessica Austin (senior/Altadena, California), a transfer from Pasadena City will provide scoring abilities as well as senior leadership.
Austin played three years for NAIA member Biola (California), appearing in 50 matches while scoring 18 goals and collecting seven assists. She was named a NAIA Honorable Mention All-American in 2012.
AIB College of Business (Iowa) transfers: Michelle Landeiro (senior/Boca Raton, Florida) and Tuany Miguel (junior/Campinas, Brazil) will provide a veteran presence as they have participated at the NAIA level. Miguel scored five goals in 19 matches for AIB in 2014.
Freshmen Claire Kilmartin (Cambridge, UK), Addie Smith (Frankfort), Shea Stivers (Taylor Mill) and Kristin Meece (Waynesburg) highlight one of the best recruiting classes the women’s soccer program has put together.
Kilmartin and Smith will provide depth at the defender position. Stivers and Meece will give Mendes options at the forward position while also being counted on as scorers.
The Bulldogs will play 17 matches overall on the 2015 season, eight of which will be played in the friendly confines of Williamson Stadium.
The 2015 season started Wednesday evening as the Bulldogs hosted in-state rival Georgetown. Union then hits the road for four straight matches: Asbury (Aug. 29), Shawnee State (Sept. 5), Pikeville (Sept. 9) and AAC foe Tennessee Wesleyan (Sept. 16).
After four straight road matches, the Bulldogs will host Milligan on Sept. 19 inside Williamson Stadium. In AAC play, Union will host Montreat (Sept. 29), Truett-McConnell (Oct. 10), Reinhardt (Oct. 17) and St. Andrews (Oct. 27).
The AAC road schedule will consist of trips to Bluefield (Sept. 23), Point (Sept. 26), Columbia (Oct. 3) and Bryan (Oct. 21).
Rounding out the 2015 schedule is a slate of non-conference matches. Union will travel to Rio Grande on Oct. 14 and host their annual homecoming match on Oct. 24 as they take on St. Catharine.
With plenty of defensive experience back on the pitch, along with a talented crop of newcomers that will contribute right away, Mendes expects Union to fight their way back to the top of the AAC in 2014.
“Our back four is going to be key for us. For me, they are the heart of this team,” Mendes said. “This is by far the best incoming class we have had so far.”