[Editor's note: The X-Women opened the regular season, at home, with wins over UPEI (2-0) and UNB (1-0).]
A new-look St. F.X. X-Women soccer team will take the pitch for this Atlantic University Sport (AUS) regular season.
“It is very much a new chapter,” head coach Graham Kennedy said.
He noted the program “lost the core” that helped garner the conference championship in 2016.
“We have a small returning group,” Kennedy added.
More than half of the roster – 13 players – is made up of newcomers.
“There are a lot of new faces,” Kennedy said.
“I hate using the word ‘rebuilding’ because we have a lot of high-calibre players that can help keep us competitive.”
He noted that showed during the pre-season.
“I am cautiously optimistic and hopeful,” Kennedy said.
As for those ‘new faces,’ the Antigonish County native talked about a foursome that he expects “to make a positive impact and play a lot,” including a pair of high quality goalkeepers.
“She is just outstanding,” Kennedy said of Christina Gentile, who hails from Montreal.
He added the goalkeeper is “fantastic with her feet,” while stellar in her fundamentals.
“Christina is also a great distributor and has a strong voice,” Kennedy continued.
The other part of the new X-Women goalkeeping tandem is Alyssa Spridgeon, who comes in as a third-year player from Young Harris University (NCAA II) in Georgia.
“She has been excellent,” Kennedy said.
Noting they have similar styles, he added, the duo is going to provide “a really solid 1-2 punch.”
Talia Morin is a central midfielder expected to make an immediate contribution.
“She is off to a really strong start,” Kennedy said, noting the freshman has a “presence I really like.”
He added Morin is a quality midfielder with great ball retrieval skills.
Described forward Brittany Pigat as “dynamic,” Kennedy said she “can run at defenders and create opportunities.”
“She has fantastic 1-v-1 attacking abilities,” he added.
That foursome, Kennedy continued, is expected to contribute “right away.”
Those first-year X-Women – as part of this season’s recruiting class – will mix with several key returnees, including All-Canadian senior midfielder Mercy Myles.
“There is not a single team that doesn’t do something special to prepare to play against Mercy,” Kennedy said.
He noted, in his opinion, the native of Accra, Ghana, is the top player in the conference.
“She is such an incredible force in the midfield,” Kennedy added, noting her ability “to receive the ball and turn it [up-field].”
Veteran Larissa White, who also returns in the midfield, is coming off winter knee surgery.
“She is well on her way, but she is not 100 per cent,” Kennedy said.
With her ongoing recover in mind, he noted, White has been playing in the center back “to help keep her out of traffic.”
“Larissa is so accurate and precise – always a treat to watch – and we have high expectations for her this season,” Kennedy added.
Speaking of the back end of the defense, senior Catherine Kennedy has been “stellar” in training camp and the pre-season.
White and Kennedy will team up with returnees Paytan Ruiz, of Pictou, and Megan Frost, to form a veteran back line.
“They are experienced and skilled – a great combo,” the head coach offered.
He noted their strengths include the ability to communicate and provide direction.
Sophomore Amanda Smith, who Kennedy said is coming off a “stellar first year,” will lead the X-Women upfront.
“Amanda is absolutely delightful to watch,” he noted.
Along with the ability to share and receive the ball, Kennedy added, Smith has “tremendous vision.”
“We are going to see who will step up [with her],” he said of the forward corps.
Kennedy also talked about a trio that has made “great strides” as they head into another AUS season,” including sophomores Melanie Belong (forward), Shyanne Hedges (midfield) and Jenna Burrows (midfield).
On the pitch
The X-Women opened the AUS regular season with home matches versus the UPEI Panthers and UNB Reds over the weekend.
Results were unavailable at press time.
St. F.X. will be on the road for three consecutive matches, including Dalhousie (Sept. 15), Mount Allison (Sept. 21) and UNB (Sept. 22).
They will return to the St. F.X. Stadium turf Friday, Sept. 27, when they welcome the Saint Mary’s Huskies.
Game time is 5 p.m.
Two days later (Sept. 29), at 1 p.m., they will host the Université de Moncton Aigles Bleues.