BARBOURVILLE, Ky. - The Union College women's soccer team opens its 2014 season on Saturday night, and the Bulldogs look to bounce back from a tough 2013 campaign that saw the team finish with a below .500 record for the first time in six years.
However, a turnaround in 2014 can be expected from the Bulldogs, who will be led by fourth year head coach Camila Mendes.
"The team has been showing a lot of heart and dedication since day one of preseason," said Mendes. "We will have a good season if we work together as a team and stay healthy. We have a good combination of an experienced team and young talent."
The Bulldogs return several key pieces from last seasons team, as the program lost just one senior in 2013.
Offensively, the squad will be paced by senior midfielder Aline Dalmedico (SR/Campinas, Brazil), a two-time All-AAC First Team selection and the team's leading goal scorer the last two seasons. In 2013, Dalmedico found the back of the net 18 times, ending the season with a 41-point total, the third highest mark in the entire AAC.
Joining Dalmedico on the attack with be fellow senior Helen Weber (SR/Marburg, Germany), who scored eight goals last season, also recording six assists. Rounding out the senior class are midfielders Jessica Frisby (SR/Russell, Ky.) and Kayla Langen (SR/Burlington, Ky.) (who both started numerous matches last season), and defender Kayse Cornett (SR/London, Ky.), a three-time All-AAC selection in her position, who will once again lead the Union backline.
The junior class is led by midfielder Morgan Hiles (JR/Union, Ky.), an All-AAC pick at her position in 2013 after starting every match on the year. Hiles in joined by fellow classmates Payten Walters (JR/Charlotte, N.C.), a midfielder who made 11 starts in 2013, and junior college transfer Sharika Ingram (JR/Manchester, Jamaica), who will also play in the midfield.
The Bulldogs' primary goalie for the 2014 season leads the sophomore class, as Kendall Ellington (SO/London, Ky. ) returns in between the pipes for Union. In her freshman campaign of 2013, Ellington won the starting position in net early on, starting 16 matches, and making 105 saves for the year.
In all, six newcomers have earned a spot on the Union roster for the 2014 season. Leading the group is Ingram, who has been a member of the Jamaican National Team at the youth level.
The 2013 freshman class is rounded out by defenders Jorydn Wayne, Bobie Bramlage (FR/Covington, Ky.) and Krysten McGuinness (FR/Fredericksburg, Va.), midfielder Elaine O'Brien (FR/Church Hill, Tenn.), and goalie Juliana Schardong (FR/Porto Alegre, Brazil).
Union will play 17 matches overall on the 2014 season, nine of which will be played on the friendly confines of Burch/Nau Field..
The Bulldogs open the 2014 campaign on Saturday evening, traveling to in-state out-of-conference foe Georgetown (Ky.) for a 7:30 p.m. kick. On Tuesday, Union opens their home schedule, hosting Pikeville at Burch/Nau Field beginning at 5 p.m.
On Sept. 6, the Bulldogs open Appalachian Athletic Conference play with a match against Columbia (S.C) at Burch/Nau Field. In AAC play, Union will host Tennessee Wesleyan (Sept. 27), Bluefield (Va.) (Oct. 1), Bryan (Tenn.) (Oct. 11), and Point (Ga.) (Nov. 1) in the program's annual Senior Day and regular season finale.
The Bulldogs will hit the road in conference play at Truett-McConnell (Ga.) (Oct. 4), Reinhardt (Ga.) (Oct. 8), Milligan (Tenn.) (Oct. 22), and St. Andrews (N.C.) (Oct. 29).
Rounding out the 2014 schedule is a slate of non-conference matches. The Bulldogs will travel to rival Cumberlands (Ky.) on Sept. 10, before hosting KIAC members Rio Grande (Ohio) and Asbury (Ky.) on Sept 13 and 16, respectively. After playing on the road at St. Catharine (Ky.) on Sept. 23, Union ends out-of-league play on Oct 14, hosting Ohio Mid-Western at 2 p.m.
To view the full 2014 Union College women's soccer schedule, click here.
With plenty of experience back all over 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 freshmen class is excited and ready to step on the field and represent us," said Mendes. "They have absorbed new information well and are working hard on implementing it on the field. We also have a great group of seniors and they will lead us by example on and off the field.
"They have stepped up and they are ready to guide our team in the right direction."