Spartans to host Chattanooga, Samford to open SoCon play this weekend
UNCG vs. Chattanooga, Sept. 23, 7 p.m., UNCG Soccer Stadium
UNCG vs. Samford, Sept. 25, 2 p.m., UNCG Soccer Stadium
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- After taking on one of the toughest nonconference schedules in the country, UNCG's women's soccer team will open Southern Conference play this Homecoming weekend when it hosts Chattanooga at 7 p.m. Friday and welcomes Samford at 2 p.m. Sunday for a rematch of the 2010 SoCon championship contest. Admission to both games is free.
- UNCG brings a 15-match regular-season SoCon winning streak dating back to 2009 into play this weekend. The Spartans' last regular-season SoCon loss came on Oct. 16, 2009 – a 2-1 setback to Samford in Greensboro. Since then, UNCG won its final four regular-season league contests to finish that year then went 11-0 in the conference last season. Including SoCon tournament games, the Spartans have won 14 straight against league teams, adding three tournament wins to their 11 straight SoCon regular-season wins last season.
- At 1-6 overall this year, the Spartans have squared off against five teams that have been ranked in at least one national poll this season, with four of them being ranked at the time of the contest. UNCG fell to then-No. 1 North Carolina and then-No. 10 Duke at the Duke Nike Classic in Durham, N.C., by identical 2-0 scores. The Spartans have also lost to Virginia Tech, which was unranked at the time but has since appeared in the Soccer America and NSCAA/Continental Tire polls, then-No. 14 Wake Forest, then-No. 23 Tennessee and unranked Georgia.
- Last time out, UNCG fell 4-1 to Georgia on Sept. 16. The Bulldogs scored three first-half goals en route to the win. Jaimey Etten scored her first goal of the season for the Spartans, answering a Georgia goal just 17 seconds later off the restart.
- Entering the weekend, junior Lauren Hein is UNCG's leading scorer with five points on two goals and an assist, while classmate Karin Sendel has four points on a goal and two assists. Etten, Kristin Player and Ashley Stokes have two points each. Keeper Kelsey Kearney has logged all 630 minutes for the Spartans this far, turning in a 2.86 goals against average.
- Sendel returned to the UNCG lineup last Friday against Georgia after missing UNCG's contest at Duke. The Kiryat Tivon, Israel, native left the team after the North Carolina match to return to her home country and play with Israel's full national team in a Euro 2013 qualifier against France on Sept. 14. Sendel was Israel's first substitute off the bench, entering the match in the 59th minute. France, which finished fourth at this summer's World Cup, won the contest 5-0.
- Kearney, a three-time All-SoCon selection (first team, 2008 and 2010), is UNCG's career leader in goals against average, as she has posted a 0.85 mark so far. After setting UNCG's school record with 31 shutouts in just her first three seasons, she needs six more to become the SoCon's career leader in that category.
- Kearney and defender Stephanie Partenheimer have been iron women in the Spartans' defense so far this season. Kearney and Partenheimer – who are both team captains – are the only two players on UNCG's roster to have played all 630 minutes so far this season.
- The Spartans have never lost their SoCon opener. Since joining the league in 1997, UNCG is 14-0-0 in its league opener. UNCG has opened the conference slate with Chattanooga twice, taking a 4-1 win in Greensboro in 2008 and a 5-2 win in Chattanooga, Tenn., last season.
- UNCG is 11-3-1 against Chattanooga all-time. The teams met for the first time in 1997, with the Spartans taking an 8-0 win. UNCG won the first five meetings, followed by a stretch in which the Mocs went 3-0-1 in the series. The Spartans have won the last six meetings. Chattanooga has never scored more than two goals in a game against UNCG.
- In last season's meeting, five different Spartans scored in UNCG's 5-2 win. With the Spartans holding a late 3-1 lead, Jessi Gulledge and Jenn Partenheimer scored just 28 seconds apart in the 81st and 82nd minutes to put the game out of reach. Coupled with a UNCG goal at the 76:51 mark and a Chattanooga score at 82:55, the teams combined for four goals in a wild six-minute, four-second stretch.
- Off to its best start since 2004, Chattanooga has won four straight and is 5-1-1 on the season. The Mocs have outscored their opponents 8-3 in consecutive wins over Lipscomb (2-0), Stetson (3-2, overtime), Jacksonville State (1-0) and Alabama A&M (2-1).
- Against Alabama A&M on Sept. 16, Chattanooga got goals from Donna-Kay Henry and Becca Smith to overcome an early 1-0 deficit. The pair assisted on each other's goals.
- Smith leads Chattanooga and is second in the conference with 16 points on seven goals (also second in the conference) and two assists. Henry is tied for the league lead with four assists. Crystal Mackezyk is second on the team with six points on three goals. Keeper Taylor Mangrum has played all 659 minutes for the Mocs, turning in a 1.50 GAA with 43 saves and two shutouts.
- The Mocs won the Gardner-Webb Under Armour Border Classic in Boiling Springs, N.C., on Sept. 9 and 11 with the wins over Stetson and Jacksonville State. Smith scored three goals in the tournament, including both game-winners on penalty kicks. Henry, who drew both PKs, was named the tournament MVP. Smith, who was named to the all-tournament team, went on to be named SoCon Co-Player of the Week for her performance.
- Friday's contest will be just the Mocs' second true road game of the season and first since they opened the season at Tennessee Tech on Aug. 19.
- UNCG owns a slight 2-1-1 edge in the all-time series with Samford, which has quickly developed into one of the SoCon's best women's soccer rivalries. After Samford went 1-0-1 in the first two meetings, the Spartans swept a pair of games last season, both by 1-0 scores.
- In last year's first meeting, in Birmingham, Ala., on Sept. 26, Jenn Partenheimer scored in the fourth minute and UNCG's defense made the lead stand. In the SoCon title game in Cullowhee, N.C., on Nov. 7, Kristen Schmidbauer scored in the 57th minute as the Spartans clinched their seventh SoCon tournament title and ninth-ever NCAA bid. Kearney picked up shutouts in both games.
- Samford, which enters play this weekend at 2-5 overall, opens league play Friday at Elon. The Bulldogs have taken on a difficult nonconference schedule this season, with losses to the SEC's Vanderbilt, Alabama and Auburn and Conference USA's Memphis and UAB. Memphis, ranked 25th at the time of the game, is now up to No. 8 in the Soccer America poll and ninth in the NSCAA/Continental Tire Top 25. Auburn was ranked 23rd when the teams met.
- Entering the weekend, Sarah Wilkinson leads the Bulldogs in scoring on the year with six points on three goals, while Adrianne Mancino is second with four points on a goal and two assists. In goal, Alyssa Whitehead has posted a 1.71 GAA and 45 saves with one shutout. She leads the SoCon with 6.43 saves per game.
- Sunday's match will once again pit two of the top keepers in SoCon history against each other. Entering this season, the two were 1-2 in career GAA in the SoCon, with UNCG's Kearney leading Samford's Whitehead, 0.61 to 0.68. Both keepers have seen their career marks rise considerably against tough competition in the early going, and Whitehead is now the league's career leader at 0.80 and Kearney is now third at 0.85. The two are also in the top four for career shutouts in league history, with Kearney sitting second with 31 and Whitehead tied for fourth with 27.
- Indicative of the brutal nonconference schedule both keepers' teams have faced, neither appears in the top 10 in the SoCon in GAA this season – a list usually dominated by the duo. Kearney led the league in GAA in 2008 and 2010, while Whitehead led the league in 2009. The two have the top three single-season GAA marks in league history, with Kearney setting the record with her 0.48 mark as a freshman in 2008 and Whitehead lowering the standard to 0.31 as a sophomore in 2009. Kearney's 0.55 GAA last season was the third-best in SoCon history. Not coincidentally, Kearney was first-team All-SoCon in 2008 and 2010, while Whitehead was the first-team keeper in 2009, relegating Kearney to the second team.
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