The UGA soccer team recently wrapped up its 2016 spring campaign with a home match against Kennesaw State at the Turner Soccer Complex on Saturday.
The six-game spring season was highlighted by a 3-1 victory against UNC-Wilmington and a near 2-1 upset of Virginia Tech on April 9, two teams that made the second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament.
This year’s spring slate marks the second under head coach Billy Lesesne, and one that the Bulldogs used to improve on every aspect of their game. With several players out due to injury, Lesesne saw his team grow across the board and gain valuable experience that will pay dividends in the fall.
“I think that we got to know each other on and off the field, which is what you are trying to do,” Lesesne said. “We did have a pretty high number of players that were injured coming into the spring and we knew that they wouldn’t be able to play and we lost a couple along the way. I think that it was a very fruitful spring for us. There were times where we took a step forward and then maybe took a step backwards, but I think we improved overall.”
Success in the spring season isn’t measured by wins or losses, but rather improvements made across the roster. Georgia focused on two main areas, intensity on defense and understanding each other on offense, both of which Lesesne was pleased with.
“We didn’t do as much work on set pieces, we will work on those in the fall,” Lesesne said. “What was most important was how we bonded with each other in those transitional moments. How we transition on offense and when the ball is lost, how we transition defensively as a unit. That has been the important part of the spring. We have grown in those areas and hopefully continue to grow.”
The Bulldogs developed off the field as well, with a team-bonding trip to Montara Farms following its match against South Carolina. The Farm is a training center located in the foothills of the North Georgia mountains dedicated to guiding a team’s productive communication, effective teamwork, creative problem solving and more. As the team becomes closer off the field, the Bulldogs will turn into a more effective unit on the field.
Georgia returns a plethora of young talent for the 2016 regular season. Leading goal-scorer Marion Crowder looks to head an experienced UGA offense, while 2015 All-SEC performers Sydney Shultis and Caroline Waters shape up the Bulldog’s midfield and backline. With 13 players returning who started multiple matches last year, the Bulldogs are prepped for a successful season.
“It’s going to be exciting,” Lesesne said. “There were a lot of positive moments. There is a sense of family that’s starting to build. It will be important that we continue to build on those relationships. We are looking forward to getting better as a team and are very excited to see where we are in the fall.”
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2016 UGA SPRING SOCCER RESULTS
March 1 vs. Georgia State, T 1-1
March 19 vs. South Carolina, L 4-1
March 30 vs. Auburn, L 3-1
April 9 vs. UNC-Wilmington, W 3-1
April 9 vs. Virginia Tech, L 2-1
April 23 vs. Kennesaw State, L 1-0