Led by a solid group of seven seniors and with all of its starters from last year’s squad that was only a penalty kick away from reaching the finals of the Southland Conference tournament, the 2012 Sam Houston women’s soccer team opens play Friday night.
The Bearkats will play host to Prairie View A&M in a non-conference match that has been moved to Intramural Field No. 3 west of Bowers Stadium. Pritchett Field is unavailable due to field renovation.
Head coach Tom Brown welcomes back one of the largest senior classes in the program’s 10-year history. The group includes Hillary Ackerman, Kayla Anderson, Amanda Biega, Michelle McCullough, Paige Rodriquez, Hailey Shelpuk and Kirby Zak.
“This is a quality group of young women and they all believe this can be our year," Brown said. "We've reached the semifinals of the Southland Conference tournament two of their three seasons here and they are ready to push all the way through this fall."
Zak, Anderson and junior Tricia Mallory all were named to the head coaches’ preseason All-Southland Conference team.
Zak begins her senior season ranked No. 5 in SHSU career goals (17). The Weatherford product holds school mark for career assists (16) and has been a three-time All-Southland selection, earning honorable mention honors as a freshman, first team recognition as a sophomore and second team as a junior.
Anderson was an All-Southland honorable mention selection in 2011. The Katy/Cinco Ranch product led team with 2,051 minutes played and started all 22 matches.
Mallory enters her junior year ranked as Sam Houston's second all-time leading scorer with 19 career goals. The Spring native was the team's "Co-Most Valuable Player" along with Shelpuk in 2011 and was the top goal scorer for last year's team with eight tallies.
“We’re eager to get started,” Mallory said. “We’ve had some great practices and everyone is working hard but we’re ready to test ourselves against outside competition.”
The match with Prairie View is the first of three home contests. Sam Houston faces Texas State Sunday and returns to Intramural Field No. 3 to take on North Texas Friday August 24. All three matches will kickoff at 7 p.m.
"This is the senior’s last year together and we're very close," Zak said. " We're determined to give everything we have to help this team be successful."
Sam Houston has been predicted to finish fourth in the 2012 Southland Conference women's soccer race but Zak believes the Kats can do better.
"UTSA and Texas State, two of the really dominate teams in the past in our league are gone," Zak said. "Stephen F. Austin returns as the conference champion and we're really looking forward to that match. It's always a battle."