The Lipscomb’s women’s soccer team went through a gauntlet of a non-conference schedule that included losses to Auburn, Georgia, Kentucky and Vanderbilt. With ASUN conference play now in full swing, the Lady Bisons are trying to find their footing against fellow mid-major squads.
Head coach Kevin O’Brien admits he was hoping for more success against the powers of the SEC, yet he believes his team is better for its early-season struggles.
“Last year, we played four SEC teams and beat two of them,” O’Brien said. “It’s kind of a gamble to have those teams on your schedule, but regardless of the outcome, the tough matches provided great preparation for our conference schedule.”
Lipscomb (4-5-3) opened its ASUN slate with a 3-0 victory at NJIT on Sept. 23, before its match with Florida Gulf Coast was rained out on Sept. 29. The Lady Bisons battled Stetson to a 1-1 draw last Sunday.
“It was a positive result, although I’m disappointed that we gave the lead up in the second half,” O’Brien said of the Stetson match. “We have performed well at times, but the results have not always been great.”
The Lady Bisons lack a go-to scorer this season and instead have several players capable of finding the back of the net. Senior Ellen Lundy leads the team with three goals, while Leah Cernicky, Riley Henry and Selah Gilmore each have two tallies apiece.
“We’d love to have a top forward that’s punching in 10 or 12 goals, but we don’t have that,” O’Brien said. “For us, it’s been scoring by committee. The success is shared – I don’t think anyone is bummed that they’re not at the top of the scoring list.”
This year, Lipscomb has implemented new formations to go with its traditional 4-3-3 lineup. The Lady Bisons have also used a 3-5-2 formation and 4-4-2 lineup to better utilize their personnel this season.
“We’re more comfortable with different styles of play than we ever have been before,” O’Brien said. “I feel like our team can make changes (in formation) without affecting it our confidence.”
This weekend will be crucial in Lipscomb’s quest for ASUN seeding. The Lady Bisons host first-place North Florida on Friday evening before taking on Jacksonville on Sunday afternoon.
“Both North Florida and Jacksonville are both important games for us,” O’Brien said. “We’ve got to put together a 90-minute performance. The most important thing is being able to sustain quality for the entirety of the game.”
Lipscomb currently sits in fifth place in the ASUN standings, so securing points in both matches would go a long way in terms of seeding for the conference tournament, which begins in late October.
“I think our team is capable of going on a run (in conference play),” O’Brien said. “Hopefully we’ll be clinical up front and score some goals this weekend.”
Junior goalkeeper Kate Mason has filled the shoes of Anna Buhigas, who won three consecutive Goalkeeper of the Year awards and is currently playing professionally in Italy. Mason has made 44 saves on 58 shots – all while playing through the pain of a torn labrum.
“She’s put in champion-like effort,” O’Brien said of Mason. “She’s playing on a torn labrum and probably should have had surgery before the season started. I’m grateful for her willingness to do what the team needed.”
Junior midfielder Dominique Diller tore her ACL before the season and is taking a redshirt year. Otherwise, Lipscomb heads into the home stretch of the regular season with a relatively healthy roster.
“We’re in a great situation (health-wise),” O’Brien said. “We’re healthy in the middle of the conference season, so we’re feeling positive about that.”
Photo courtesy of Lipscomb Athletics