By: Michael Hanich | Sports Editor
Football is not the only collegiate sport that is thriving despite the continuing threats of COVID-19. The South Alabama Jaguars soccer team is back once again as favorites to win the Sun Belt Conference title for the seventh time in their eight-year run. The Jaguars are coming from their dominating performance in the 2019 Sun Belt Conference Championship Tournament and their 2-0 loss to the Florida State Seminoles in the NCAA Tournament.
As the effects of COVID-19 made preseason scrimmages difficult, the Jaguars started the 2020 regular season with a 1-2 loss against the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns. While the Ragin’ Cajuns are a fellow Sun Belt foe, this game would not be counted in the conference standings.
The Jaguars were led by junior defender and Sun Belt Conference preseason defensive player of the year Tilly Wilkes. Alongside her were sophomore midfielder Gracie Wilson, junior midfielder Brenna McPartlan, and graduate student Athanasia Moraitou as the conference’s preseason first-team.
It did not take long for the Jaguars to establish their presence on the field. McPartlan was the first player to score for the Jaguars this season 15:38 minutes into the game off an unassisted goal. In the first half, the Jaguars were able to take five efficient shots with three of them at the goal. Senior forward Ana Helmert was the other Jaguar that took three shots in the first half. On the defensive side, the Jaguars showed dominance as they suppressed the Ragin’ Cajuns by stealing the ball and quickly intercepting longer passes. The Ragin’ Cajuns could not take any shots towards the goal in the first half due to the Jaguars’ strong defense.
The Ragin’ Cajuns were showing life in the second half as they were more alert to the passing schemes of the Jaguars forwards and midfielders. They were also finding ways of keeping the ball away from the Jaguars. South Alabama was starting to lose steam late in the second half and thought they could survive an aggressive Ragin’ Cajuns comeback until forward Lizzy Mayfield scored on Jaguars sophomore goalie Anna Brunner with 1:05 minutes left in regulation.
Injuries and fatigue started to deteriorate the Jaguars’ drive, especially when the game went into double overtime. 6:47 minutes into the double overtime, Mayfield was able to put Alyssa Abbott into scoring position from almost center field that gave the Ragin Cajuns the win.
After the game, Jaguars head coach Richard Moodie said that injuries and fatigue played a huge role in the loss to Louisiana. He also made the clarifications that they have a long way to go for them to be the dominant team that most people believe they are.The Jaguars (0-1) will host their first home game of the season on Sunday, September 20th when they take on their in-state rivals: the Troy Trojans.