Panthers lock in for conference play this weekend

IMG_3988 IMG_3999 IMG_4021 IMG_4073The women’s soccer head coach knows the competition will be on a higher level this year, with every game holding its own weight of importance. A mindset coaches have adopted have been to start playing their best soccer come conference play and not before that. The Panthers are 5-4 after their non-conference run, which is impressive if they can carry the momentum found in games against University of North Florida, University of the Pacific and Stetson University.

Beginning for the Panthers on Friday, Sept. 26, is Conference USA play. These games are the ones that matter for any C-USA team if they wish to advance into the C-USA Tournament. According to the Conference USA official website, the top eight teams will advance based on points. Head Coach Thomas Chestnutt and his team will see 10 C-USA opponents from Sept. 26 to Oct. 30. Against C-USA opponents, the Panthers are an impressive 40-35-7. Last season, they were 5-6, a record that still allowed for entry into the tournament.

Over the next two games, Old Dominion University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte come to town on Friday, Sept. 26 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 28 at 1 p.m, respectively. Series history against both teams is a combined 2-2 record, outscoring the ODU 4-0 and losing UNC Charlotte at 0-2 in their last meetings. These are the final two games of the seven-game home stand for the Panthers.

Old Dominion is sitting dead last in C-USA standings with a 1-5-2 record, while Charlotte is doing a little bit better at the No. 10 spot with a 3-3-1 record. The Panthers are in seventh place on the eve of conference play.

Regardless of what the records for both ODU and UNC Charlotte may reflect, both teams have one player in the top 10 for shots and shots per game. For the 49ers of Charlotte, sophomore Perri Bonner has four goals on the season, tying her with senior Panther Chelsea Leiva. Charlotte brings C-USA Defensive Player of the Week Annika McHenry, junior goalkeeper for the 49ers. John Cullen, head coach of the 49ers, should find solace in the fact that his team is outscoring opponents 11-8 on the season. Before coming to Miami, UNC Charlotte sees the Florida Atlantic University team to try and extend their two-game winning streak.

Old Dominion just completed their three-game Virginia tour, yet come to Miami with only one win to show against Radford University (1-0). ODU was outscored 9-3 on that trip, taking their defensive confidence down a notch. ODU has allowed a C-USA worst 15 goals compared to the Panthers’ eight allowed. Leading goalscorer on the season senior Jessie Klamut has three goals, but outside of her, scoring is scarce with only five total team goals. An encouraging statistic for ODU in the midst of this slump is their shots on goal (30). Nonetheless, a 1-2 away record is nothing to boast and something the Panthers look to exploit.

What makes 2014’s run better than last season’s for the Panthers? The addition of healthy forward Chelsea Leiva and her four goals will give head coaches headaches. The defense of the Panthers is stout and has helped record a C-USA best five shutouts on the season. Senior forward Ashleigh Shim is the number 10 all-time goalscorer for a reason, as well. With two goals on the season, she had two beautiful opportunities against No. 23 Long Beach State University on Sept. 21. These chances will turn into goals soon, and may come at the most needed time.

The Panther midfielders have been efficient, also. Led by senior Johanna Volz (two goals on the season), each lady Panther is hampering opposing teams’ chances to advance the ball past the halfway mark. The emergence of freshman Courtney Phillips and her quick one-touch move brings a new dynamic to this team. Midfielder Scarlet Montoya’s five assists on the season leads the team and has even found the back of the net once. Junior Madlen Weinhardt has been an ace with her set pieces and will continue to be the player orchestrating those situations.

All the cogs are oiled and ready to work in tandem with one another for Chestnutt and his team. The machine will be put to its biggest set of tests beginning this Friday, Sept. 26, at 7 p.m. here in Miami, FL.

About the Author

James Profetto
:Staff Writer for FIU Student Media. Majoring in Broadcast Media. Sports guru with a passion for movies, music and getting to know people. Aspiring play-by-play commentator. You'll see me on TV one day.

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