The top two teams in the Gulf South Conference will meet today in women’s soccer action at the VSU Soccer Complex.
The Valdosta State Blazers (13-2-2) will host the third-ranked West Florida Argonauts (16-1-0) in the final regular season game for both teams. Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m.
“I think, to be a coach with the team I have, it makes it more exciting,” Valdosta State head coach Mel Heinz said. “The players we have on our team have worked hard all season. I am thrilled for them to represent our program.”
Leaders of the GSC, the Argonauts also sit atop the South Region rankings, which were released on Wednesday. Valdosta State is ranked fifth and a win over UWF could help solidify the Blazers’ chances of advancing past the conference tournament and into the regional tournament later this season.
“It should, but right now, with our record and strength of schedule, I feel like we should be getting votes in the top 25,” Heinz said. “And I think (today) should encourage coaches that vote, to vote for our team.
“I think regionally we could get a little more respect, too. We didn’t get any respect by losing to West Florida by just one goal (earlier this season). I guess as a new program, you constantly have to be working hard to prove yourself. There isn’t that history that people can look back to.”
Valdosta State lost the previous meeting between the two teams 1-0 earlier this month. The then-top-ranked Argonauts scored the game’s only goal in the 71st minute when Julianne Gaubron snuck one past VSU goalkeeper Olivia Mills.
It was just the Blazers’ second loss of the season.
“What stood out was we competed with them,” Heinz said of the loss. “It wasn’t a lopsided game. I felt like we had opportunities for goals. I think our kids worked hard on both sides of the ball. It is just a shame that you just make a mistake and it costs you. I felt like we were pretty flawless and then we had that one mistake. It was a great game and it could have gone either way.”
Today will mark the fourth-ever meeting between the Argonauts and Blazers. West Florida holds a 2-1 record against VSU following the win earlier this month.
Last season, West Florida blew out the Blazers 5-0 in the regular season meeting in Pensacola. Less than a month later, the two teams played to a thriller in the Gulf South Conference Tournament, which ended with the Blazers beating the favored Argonauts in penalty kicks.
“Our first game against them we didn’t play how we needed to, but then they realized ‘we can do this and battle this team,’” Heinz said. “That was a huge confidence builder and our players remember that any team can be beat.”
The win over West Florida in the conference tournament last year was a program-defining win for Heinz and the Blazers. They hope to garner another momentous win over the Argonauts today.
“West Florida has achieved so much and they are big in our conference and nationally,” Heinz said. “They’ve been in the Final Four and they have a lot of history that makes them a respectable program. In our kids’ eyes, that is the program that everyone wants to become.”
The Argonauts beat West Georgia 4-0 on Friday afternoon to earn their fifth straight shutout.
“Experience is huge for them. That is one of their strengths; pace is another,” Heinz said. “They feel they are a good team and it is hard to knock down a team that has great amount of confidence. They have very strong players everywhere, from goalkeeper to the front line. They have a lot talent.”
Valdosta State enters today’s game following a 4-1 rout of West Alabama Friday afternoon. The Blazers scored all four of their goals in the first 30 minutes, something Heinz was pleased to see.
“It gives us a lot of confidence, getting onto the scoreboard and not just getting one (goal),” Heinz said. “Right now, our team is focusing on getting more shots off. (Friday) that was the goal — how many shots can we take and can we get those shots early on. It shows these players that if you do shoot, you can score.”
Previously, the Blazers and Tigers had played to a 1-1 tie earlier in the season, something Heinz was not pleased with.
“We had some extra motivation,” Heinz said. “Not many chances in your season do you get a re-do. We didn’t show up against West Alabama in the first half and we were lucky to get a tie. So that was something we wanted to change in this game against them and we clearly did.”
Blazer soccer not selling donuts
Recently, in Valdosta and surrounding areas, there have been rumors of the Valdosta State Blazer soccer team selling Krispy Kreme donuts as a team fundraiser. That is not true.
No team in VSU Athletics are using donuts as a fundraiser and Valdosta State would advise reporting anyone who claims to represent VSU Athletics or Blazer Soccer trying to sell donuts.