NEW ORLEANS — After a trip to the Sun Belt Conference semifinals in 2014, Georgia Southern women’s soccer was picked to finish fourth in the preseason coaches’ poll, while GSU’s Nora El-Shami and Melinda Lukas were picked to the preseason All-Sun Belt Conference team.
The Eagles finished tied for third place last season with a 5-3-1 league record and an 11-6-2 overall mark, including nonconference wins over Indiana, North Carolina-Wilmington, Mercer and Francis Marion. Georgia Southern reached the semifinals of the Sun Belt Tournament with a win over Appalachian State in the first round of the postseason.
El-Shami and Lukas claimed All-Sun Belt honors a year ago. El-Shami scored seven goals with seven assists last season as a junior to pace the Eagle attack. Lukas had an outstanding sophomore campaign, scoring six goals including four game-winning goals.
Two preseason friendlies will give the Eagles a chance to play together before the season opener Friday, Aug. 21, against Jacksonville. The first friendly is set for Friday at The Citadel, with the second scheduled for Sunday against North Georgia.
South Alabama was picked to win the conference according to the league’s coaches, followed by Troy and Texas State in second and third, respectively. USA’s Charde Hannah was named the SBC preseason offensive player of the year, while teammate Nini Rabsatt-Smith was named the preseason defensive player of the year.
Football team wraps up first week of preseason practice
STATESBORO — The first week of preseason camp is complete for the Georgia Southern football team as the Eagles prepare for their second season in the Football Bowl Subdivision and the Sun Belt Conference.
The newcomers are finding their way, the fitness level of the team is rounding into form and the coaching staff is getting a handle on who will be ready to take the bulk of the snaps in the season opener Sept. 5 at West Virginia.
“Our young guys are learning their assignments, and our coaches are doing a great job making sure everybody is flying around and doing the right thing,” junior quarterback Kevin Ellison said. “It can be a grind so you have to make sure your mind is right and come out here and practice hard every day.”
Those who may be getting acquainted with Georgia Southern football likely would be a little surprised if they were to watch practice. For a team that led the nation in rushing, the Eagles have slung the rock around quite a bit, just as they did in spring ball.
Head coach Willie Fritz has said on many occasions that the Eagles need to get better throwing the ball because opponents are going to pack the box and dare Georgia Southern to run at them. The only way to get better at throwing the football is to practice it. Fritz likes flashes of what he has seen from the quarterbacks but is looking for more.
“The thing we have to work on is consistency,” he said. “They have to consistently use the proper mechanics, and they’ll be good throwers. They are such good runners; we just have to get their thought process toward proper mechanics of throwing the football.”
Receivers like B.J. Johnson, Derek Keaton and Ryan Longoria will look to provide the threat of a big play and are eager to show they can do much more than block on the outside.
“Our receivers are much better route runners and ball catchers than people probably give them credit for,” Fritz said. “They are tough guys, and they will all block, which you have to do in this offense.”
The coaching staff this week will begin zeroing in on a depth chart for the opener against the Mountaineers, and those players will start getting more of the reps in practice next week and even more in the following weeks as Sept. 5 draws near. The two-deep already is taking shape along the offensive line.
Practices are open to the public, but any filming, recording or photography is limited to members of the media only.
Wednesday — 8:15 a.m.
Thursday — 8:15 a.m.
Friday — 8:15 a.m.
Saturday — 9 a.m. (Paulson Stadium, scrimmage, Meet the Eagles)