Women’s soccer season preview: UNFinished Business

John Watson, Sports Editor

Featured Image: Justin Nedrow

UNFinished Business. After a spring 2021 campaign that saw a spectacular regular season followed by a shock defeat in the ASUN semifinals, the UNF women’s soccer team is hungry for a title this season.

With just two weeks until the start of their season, the Ospreys are preparing for their first ‘normal’ season since 2019. With COVID-19 delaying last season’s start date, the team is eager to have a full schedule this season.

 The Ospreys have been hard at work in practice for their 2021 campaign (Justin Nedrow)

UNF will begin their season on Aug. 19, with a non-conference game at Western Carolina. Before that game ever begins, the Ospreys have already earned recognition throughout the ASUN conference. Thais Reiss, Mercedes Sapp and Ari Munoz have all been named to the ASUN preseasons all-conference team. Reiss was named Preseason player of the year and Sapp was named preseason goalie of the year.

UNF was also named the ASUN favorite to win this year, sharing the top spot in the preseason coaches poll with 130 points. UNF Head Coach Eric Faulconer is appreciative of the preseason honors and knows the program is headed in the right direction.

“I told the team yesterday I’d much rather be picked first than picked the eighth or ninth or 10th,” Faulconer said. “That means we’re doing something right, but we got to make that [an ASUN Championship] happen. We have the talent to do that, and we’re going to take it day by day and continue to get better.”

The team is as motivated as ever coming into this offseason due to their defeat in the ASUN semifinals in the Spring in a 1-0 loss to Liberty. Coach Faulconer noted that most of the players on the team last season were also on the team in 2019’s quarterfinal loss. With those two losses being on the minds of many players, the team is hoping to take the next step. 

This next step includes crucial pieces from last year’s team that are looking at their last season of eligibility. Both Thais Reiss and Mercedes Sapp are returning to the team after finishing their senior seasons with the Ospreys. Being granted a fifth year of eligibility due to COVID-19, a lot will be at stake this season.

 The ASUN’s top scorer Thais Reiss, will look to continue her dominance and lead her team to an ASUN Championship (Justin Nedrow)

This year’s team motto? UNFinished business. 

Senior midfielder Kendra Hoffman was a starter in all games the last two seasons. She has noted that the team is extremely excited for the upcoming season, and they all know what’s at stake this season. She talked about the importance of the UNFinished business motto and how the team is using that as motivation.

“We put [the motto] on our practice jerseys,” Hoffman said. “It’s a good reminder every day to just come out and grind because we know what we can accomplish. So each day, we use that to motivate us.”

While the team is using this offseason to develop and grow their skills in pursuit of an ASUN championship, the team is utilizing their new freshmen and transfers to fill in some holes that they had noticed in last season’s squad.

Sometimes struggling with teams that were physical and aggressive last season, the Ospreys took that into account and focused on that in workouts, and added players that could fill that gap. Other attributes like speed and agility were also taken into consideration when adding newcomers and transfers, and Coach Faulconer feels like his 2021 team is as well-rounded as ever.

This season, blending veteran ability with freshman talent will be one of Coach Faulconer and his coaches’ staff’s responsibilities as he looks to lead the team to their first NCAA Championship appearance.

As for their offseason training program has been going, Faulconer is pleased with what he has seen so far,

“Overall, we’re really pleased. The team came in in great shape and just really excited to be back on the field,” Faulconer said.

While UNFinished business will be the motto this season, the team will look forward to their 16-game schedule with eight home games and eight away games. The grind will be challenging this year, but the Ospreys seem ready and motivated to get the job done.


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