UWA women’s soccer picked fifth in conference

Published 10:46 am Thursday, August 8, 2013

LIVINGSTON – University of West Alabama juniors Nicki Gears and Lydia Sutcliffe were named to the 2013 Preseason All-Gulf South Conference Team in women’s soccer on Thursday. The UWA women’s soccer squad, who is preparing to open its third season this fall, was voted as conference preseason fifth in the GSC coaches poll.

Gears, a forward from Ripon, England, is no stranger to the accolades as she was the first UWA women’s soccer player to ever be named to the preseason list to open the 2012 season. She was also named to the 2011 All-GSC second team as well as the 2012 All-GSC first team.

Last season, Gears led the conference in shots (101) and shots per game (5.31). She finished the season second in goals per game (0.74) as well as assists (10) and was third in points (38), points per game (2.00) and assists per game (0.53). As the Tigers’ leading scorer with 14 goals, Gears accounted for three game winning goals and a hat trick against Judson College.

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Sutcliffe, a midfielder from Brighouse, England, is also a returning member of the 2012 All-GSC first team. She finished last season as UWA’s second leading scoring threat with nine goals. She compiled the team’s best shot percentage (.346) and finished second on the team in points (20) and game winning goals (1). She too claimed a hat trick over Judson College.

“Nicki and Lydia did tremendously well last year,” said head coach Graeme Orr.

“They made many accomplishments and were awarded with their achievements, however they know it is a team and that everyone will be looking for them. It is a team game and we are going to have a squad that works hard for each other who collect a lot of achievements both individually and collectively at the end of the season when we reach our goals.”

Joining the UWA squad of 10 returning starters this season will be goal keeper Issy Foster and forward Rebekah Craig. Both were named to the 2013 GSC Top Newcomers list. Foster, a native of Telford, England, was only one of two goalies named to the 20 person list. Craig, a County Antrim, Ireland native, will join Gears on the pitch as another forward.

“Both Issy and Rebekah have international experience with their countries which will set them in good standing over here,” Orr said. “They know what the next level is and how to get there. We are hoping that their addition to our squad will add an extra burst.”

The team’s preseason fifth conference ranking, the highest the young program has been voted, falls behind defending National Champion West Florida (No. 1), Valdosta State (No. 2), North Alabama (No. 3) and Alabama Huntsville (No. 4).

“We can look at our competition in two ways: we could be upset that we are in a tough conference or we can take the challenge on that you get to play the best in the country. We will take the challenge.”

UWA Women’s soccer will open the 2013 season against Judson College at home on Sept. 5 at 7 p.m.