The team with the best chance of bringing a national championship home to Florence this season is the University of North Alabama soccer team. No pressure, ladies!
The UNA soccer program has been on the rise for several years after finishing last season with a record of 17-4, advancing to the NCAA tournament for their third consecutive appearance, and winning the elusive GSC title. Coach Graham Winkworth is in his 10th season at the helm of the Lions ‘football’ team. He was named Gulf South Conference Coach of the Year in 2009.
UNA’s soccer team returns several talented veterans including national Player of the Year, Chloe Roberts. She was also named 2011 Alabama Small College Athlete of the Year by the Alabama Sports Writers Association. The senior forward is a three time All-American for the Lions and is joined by All-Americans Nikki Brown, a senior midfielder, and Jennifer Osmond, a junior forward. Assisting these all-conference players are All-GSC team members defender Julia Osmond, a junior, midfielder Jo Chubb, a senior, and defender Ellis Hillman, a sophomore. Each of these players hail from England, as does Coach Winkworth.
The Lions will open up at home against Tennessee Wesleyan on Friday, August 31st and then host Barry (from the tough Sunshine State Conference) on Sunday, September 2nd. Conference play begins early in the season with two of the toughest matches coming in mid-September as West Florida visits Florence just before the Lions travel to Valdosta State. They are the other two teams predicted to finish near or atop the conference in 2012 and were the most competitive GSC teams to UNA in 2011. Last year, the Lions were able to break the Argos conference record 54-match winning streak.
Have you ever heard a UNA coach yell, “That’s Rubbish!” to GSC officials? If not, we’ll see you pitch-side!