A new Sam Houston State athletic season will officially get started Friday at 6:30 p.m. when the Bearkat soccer team hosts Louisiana-Lafayette at Pritchett Field. The first 100 students in attendance receive free food from Pizza Hut and 3 Spoons starting at 5:30 p.m.
Sam Houston will also host former league foe Texas-San Antonio Sunday at 6:30 p.m.
The Kats return 10 of 11 starters from last year’s team that made it to the semifinals of the Southland Conference Tournament. The squad is filled with upperclassmen, featuring six seniors and eight juniors while there will be just four newcomers on this season’s team.
Sam Houston was picked to finish third in in the Southland by the league’s head coaches. Last season the Bearkats finished sixth but earned the fifth seed in the Southland Conference Tournament.
Preseason first-team All-Southland member Mariah Titus returns for her junior season after bagging eight goals as a sophomore in 2013. The previous season’s leading goal-getter, Katie Ferrara, also returns to the squad.
Junior Shelby McDaniel, who was selected to the preseason second-team, pulls the strings in the midfield and led the Bearkats with five assists last season. She added a pair of goals to go along with her team-leading assist total.
Fellow preseason second-team member, junior goalkeeper Kylie Hambleton, will return in between the posts where she’s started 36-of-40 matches in her career. She was the league’s freshman of the year in 2012.
Louisiana-Lafayette has been selected to finish second in the Sun Belt this season and has a league-high three players on the preseason All-SBC team.
Senior defender and reigning SBC Defensive Player of the Year Grace Howell-Harries highlighted ULL’s preseason accolades, earning SBC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year honors. Sophomore forwards Yazmin Montoya and Annika Schmidt joined Howell-Harries on the SBC Preseason All-Conference Team.
Sunday’s opponent, UT-San Antonio was picked to finish 11th in Conference-USA and sophomore goalkeeper Emma Makela was named to the preseason All-Conference USA Team.