VSU’s Jennings Named Soccer Preseason All-GSC

| August 7, 2015
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VSU Image

VALDOSTA – With just under one month remaining before the Valdosta State soccer team opens up its 2015 campaign under the lights at the VSU Soccer Complex, senior defender Shelby Jennings earned a nod of respect from the league coaches as a Preseason All-GSC selection. In addition, the Blazers, who claimed the GSC title last in 2014, were predicted as fourth place finishers.

Jennings’ selection was without a doubt influenced by a stellar All-GSC junior season, in which the feisty Suwanee, Ga. native played in and started each of the Blazers’ 21 matches and was named to the GSC Championship All-Tournament Team after leading VSU to the program’s first ever conference title. During the season, Jennings tallied one assist and two goals from the defender position, with her first goal of the season serving as a game-winner against Spring Hill on October 12.

“Both Shelby and Rebeca Bonilla were brilliant last year,” stated Head Coach Rebecca Nolin, who begins her second season with Valdosta State this fall. “They are two players who didn’t get many minutes their freshman and sophomore years, then all of the sudden they are starting every game. They have a great partnership, and their communication with one another is absolutely fantastic, which is exactly what you want and need in your two center backs. This award is very well deserved for Shelby, and being recognized last year gave her that little bit of extra edge to push, come in fit again, and continue to be a leader. She’s ready and excited to be a captain for us this year.”

In a preseason poll voted on by coaches throughout the GSC, the Blazers landed in fourth place after receiving five third place votes, two fourth place votes, one fifth place tally, and two sixth place votes for a total of 70 points. Valdosta State finished behind last year’s GSC Championship opponent North Alabama, who claimed the third place position with 81 points, West Florida in second place with 89 points, and Lee, who earned a unanimous selection atop the poll with ten first place votes and will compete for the first time this season as an eligible member of the NCAA and the GSC.

“We have a relatively young squad,” added Nolin. “However, we are always going to aim to win the conference. Noone ever goes in saying that their goal is to finish fourth. Our goal is to finish first, and I believe as long as we stay consistent throughout the season, we’ve got a fantastic chance of achieving that goal. It’s probably going to be a close conference again this year, and like I’ve said before, there are no easy games.”

Falling in slightly behind VSU was Christian Brothers at number five with 67 votes, while West Alabama dropped in at number six with 56 votes. Union claimed seventh place with 38 votes, Alabama-Huntsville secured 35 votes for the eighth place position, and Shorter landed just one point behind with 34 votes in the ninth place spot. West Georgia and Delta State rounded out the predicted standings with tenth and eleventh place finishes, claiming 24 and 11 votes, respectively.

The Blazers look to follow up on an outstanding run in 2014 that ended in the second round of the NCAA Division II National Tournament. Along with the aforementioned GSC Championship victory, the team’s 12-7-2 record last season included four wins in their last six matches of the season and the program’s first victory in a South Regional match. As a result, the Blazers enter the upcoming campaign among the nation’s top 25 teams. And despite losing a host of veterans with the graduation of the 2011 inaugural class, Coach Nolin is confident that the team leadership responsibilities rest in good hands with a core group of returning players.

“We’ve got a really good core coming back that are very familiar with the philosophy of the program, which is very important. There is a general feeling of excitement for the girls to return, especially in that senior group. There are six of them, which is a good size to help the freshman transition and help our transfers bring their experience into a leadership role.”

Also recognized in Thursday’s release were a list of top newcomers that included transfers Jade Reynolds and Kyana Campbell.

“Jade will only be with us for one year, but she is coming in with a vast amount of soccer experience at the Division I level,” said Nolin when speaking of Reynolds, an Oxford, England native who joins the Blazers after three years at the College of Charleston. “Her age and experience will also allow her to take on a senior leadership role.”

Nolin continued on Campbell, “Kyana is a young lady I became familiar with in the Gwinnett Soccer Association where I used to coach before coaching at the college level. She is a very competitive, driven individual that spent two years at Georgia Perimeter and comes very highly recommended by her previous coaches at both GSA and GPC. She served as a go-to player for them in high pressure situations, and she wanted to come to VSU, which will provide that extra bit of passion and commitment from her to really do well coming into her junior year.”

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