The LaGrange women's soccer team enters the 2012 season with an experienced roster of 25 players and seeking a second consecutive berth in the conference championship game. The Panthers, starting their fourth season under Jim Robbins, open the season Friday at 5:30 p.m. against visiting Florida College. It will be their first season competing in the USA South Athletic Conference.
Last season, the Panthers reached the championship game of the Great South Athletic Conference for the first time in the 25-year history of the program, losing a heartbreaker to Piedmont. The Panthers reached the final by beating Agnes Scott in the quarterfinals and nine-time defending champion Maryville in the semifinals, both on penalty kicks. It was the first time Maryville did not reach the GSAC championship game.
The Panthers did not graduate anyone from last year's team and welcome six newcomers to this year's team. Junior Chelsea Totaro returns in goal. Totaro had a 1.52 goals against average last season with five shutouts. Junior Hope Sims anchors the defensive backfield after earning GSAC All-Conference honors in 2011. Sophomore Elise Hopson, who earned GSAC All-Freshman honors, returns after leading the team in scoring with 20 points and tying for the team lead in goals scored with six.
"This year's incoming class is very strong and we filled our needs for the upcoming year." Robbins said of the 2012 class, his third recruiting class at LaGrange. "These girls are very talented soccer players and have a wealth of club experience. The entire group will have an immediate impact on our roster and our team."
The Panthers have been picked eighth in the USA South preseason coaches' poll. Robbins is looking forward to the challenge of the new conference.
"Our goal as a program continues to be to earn a place in the USA South Conference championship match and play our way into the NCAA Tournament". Robbins said. "This season will be a great test of where we are as a program and how far we have come in a few short years. We are no longer an easy win for the teams on our schedule. We will imprint our style on the match and play each game with the expectation of winning."