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Vanderspiegel, Lady Eagles set to kick off 2011

    Lindsey Vanderspiegel and the Georgia Southern Lady Eagles have a mountain to climb, but it doesn’t intimidate the first-time head coach.
    “It’s a goal of ours to compete for a Southern Conference championship without a doubt, and we feel that’s a feasible goal,” said Vanderspiegel, who was an assistant coach at Hofstra before being named GSU’s head coach in December. “For the girls, we’ll take it game-by-game. We want to understand that every game we compete in is a winnable game. We respect everyone, but we understand that we can win.”
    The Eagles (5-12-1, 2-8-1 SoCon in 2010) got off to a good start, scrimmaging North Florida to a 1-0 win on Friday, Aug. 12. Keeper Katie Merson needed only one save to preserve the shutout.
    Today, as GSU opens the regular season on the road at Winthrop at 7 p.m. in Rock Hill, S.C., the Eagles have plenty to build on.
    “It was great to keep a clean sheet defensively,” said Vanderspiegel. “It’s something that gives you a bit of confidence. You haven’t been scored on, you managed to get the win, but at the same time, I think the girls understand it was more about building towards Friday.”
    The Eagles picked team captains Tuesday, with some familiar names being recognized as leaders. Sara Oland, who was responsible for the goal against UNF and was the team’s
leading scorer in 2010, was one of two seniors tabbed as a captain. Oland scored nine of the team’s 18 goals in 2010.
    The other senior captain is midfielder Kyrstin Smith.
    “Kyrstin brings probably the most vocal leadership in the traditional sense,” Vanderspiegel said. “She’s just always buzzing around the midfield and changing the point of attack. She’s a very technical player.”
    Junior Courtney Colllins rounds out the leaders on a team that is still looking for its footing under a first-year coach.
    “We’re putting a lot of girls in different positions,” said Vanderspiegel, “trying new things and feeling each other out so, come Friday, we have everyone in the position that’s best suited for the team.”
    Winthrop finished tied for first place in the Big South in 2010, and is the first of seven non-conference games before the SoCon slate begins on Sept. 23 at Wofford.
    “It’s a building experience towards conference play, but we take every game into consideration,” Vanderspiegel said. “We want to win every game.”
    UNC Greensboro is, no surprise, the favorite in the SoCon. The six-time defending conference champion has once again been tabbed in the preseason to win the league.
    Samford was picked to finish second by a slim margin.

    Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.