On paper, the Georgia Southern women’s soccer team looks like a young program.
With only 15 returning players and 21 freshmen showing up after spring camp, it’s easy to see why — but that doesn’t mean the Eagles don’t have an identity.
With seniors Zoe Van Gorder and Courtney Collins leading the way, there is plenty of on-the-field leadership for the freshman class to lean on.
"Even though we might have more freshmen than we do returners, we really have the cornerstone of the program set in place," said second-year coach Lindsey Vanderspiegel. "Between the two of them, our leadership is in good hands."
Collins led the Eagles in 2011 scoring with eight goals.
The Eagles (7-11-2 in 2011) got a season-opening, 2-0 win Sunday at Stetson, and though senior Morgan Springer started the scoring, it was freshman Stephanie Grotto who later scored after a deflected Collins shot.
"We certainly feel like we have more depth this year, which can go a long way," Vanderspiegel said. "I think depth combined with team chemistry are the two pivotal things you need for success."
The win was the first season-opening victory for GSU since the Eagles defeated Gardner-Webb, 2-0, on Aug. 22, 2008.
Nine different players subbed into the game against Stetson.
"That was something we couldn’t do last year," Vanderspiegel said, "and we got two (goals) on the board. I think we could’ve gotten a few more."
The Eagles play a less aggressive game than many Southern Conference competitors, favoring defense and organization to a high-risk, high-reward, aggressive attack.
"I like to be a team that is thought of as hard to break down," said Vanderspiegel. "There are those offensive team like College of Charleston and Samford, and I think we’re kind of right there in the middle. If you ask the other coaches opinion, I think they’d say we are better defensively organized than we might be threatening an attack. I’d certainly like to be better on the attack, but that’s where we are right now."
The Eagles also have a solid starter at goalkeeper, with junior Katie Merson.
"She had a good fall campaign for us last year," Vanderspiegel said about Merson. "She really emerged for us at the end of last year, owning that starting job, and she’s certainly been playing well in the preseason. She certainly looked good against Stetson keeping a clean sheet."
The Eagles return to action with the home opener Friday against Gardner-Webb at 2 p.m., and play again Sunday at home against High Point.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.