Women’s soccer opens NCAA tournament for first time

Jackie Gutknecht

The Georgia Southern University Eagles women’s soccer team opens the 2012 NCAA Women’s Soccer Tournament against the No. 3 seeded Wake Forest University Demon Deacons on Saturday.

The Eagles go into the tournament with a 10-7-5 overall record. The Demon Deacons challenge that with a 13-5-3 season record.

GSU earned the Southern Conference’s automatic bid into the tournament after winning the SoCon Tournament Sunday.

This is the 16th consecutive year that WFU has earned at bid to the NCAA Tournament, which is the sixth longest streak in the country. The Demon Deacons hold one of the tournaments 16 national seeds for the seventh year running and are one of only four teams to earn a seed in every tournament since 2006. WFU is 10-2-0 at Spry Stadium in NCAA Championship games.

Leading the Eagles in points is freshman midfielder Nora El-Shami with 13 points this season. Junior forward Katie Stengel leads the Demon Deacons with 17 season points so far.

Senior forward Courtney Collins (12) and sophomore forward Sydnie Van Curen (11) have also racked up a high number of points for the Eagles this season. Senior midfielder Kristen Meier has tallied 13 points thus far for the Demon Deacons while junior forward Rachel Nuzzolese and redshirt junior midfielder Ally Berry have also added 11 points each.

Eagles junior goalkeeper Katie Merson has racked up 101 total saves this season whereas the Demon Deacons junior goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe has 57 season saves.

This will be just the second meeting for WFU and GSU with the last having the Demon Deacons come out on top in Spry Stadium in 2002.

The Eagles won the 2012 SoCon Championship Sunday for the first time in GSU history and was the first team to ever win it as the eight seed in the tournament’s history. GSU defeated the third seeded Furman University in penalty kicks, 5-4.