School is back in session at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, and this means a new soccer season is upon us.
The Fillies soccer team started practice two weeks ago as they played their first friendly scrimmage against Brewton-Parker this past Saturday. They will host their final tune-up before the regular season tomorrow afternoon against Georgia-Southwestern before the regular season starts August 31st against Georgia Military College.
ABAC will start its eleventh season of women’s junior college soccer and as many things have changed throughout the years, but one thing has stayed the same which is their goals on and off the field.
Head Coach Jimmy Ballenger, who has built the program from the ground up has had the same mind set for his team. He wants his players to not only be competitive on the field, but also in the classroom, and out in the community.
Last season, his team finished 3rd overall in the conference finishing 5-7 overall. They did move on to advance in the second round of the playoffs before falling to Darton State by the score of 1-0 in a hard fought game. But the one quality that separates this year’s team from year’s past this group of players is a more offensive-minded team, which will play with a lot of confidence come the first regular season game.
For this new crop of Fillies soccer players, they will be led by a great core of sophomore talent which will provide leadership and experience to the team. But the talent from the freshman players will also be exciting to watch as well.
Top offensive players to watch that will be relied upon on the offensive side will be sophomores Myesha Robinson, Katy Hunt, and Tift County standout Blakeley Bergeron. All three ladies have scored goals against Brewton-Parker last week.
Defensively the Fillies lost their two anchors in front of the goal from a season ago, Alexis Holtman, 2nd team all-conference, who is now a junior at ABAC, and Shelby Bursey, who has took her soccer skills to a higher institution of learning in Florida while continuing her education. The backbone of the defense this season will be built around sophomore Ashley Hammonds. Former Blue Devil Cassidy Ingram will also play an important defensive role beside Hammonds as a couple more options are still to be determined.
Freshman players that have caught the eye of the coaching staff early on and will be ones to definitely to watch are Taylor Shawver, and Breanna Gomez along with Miranda Young and Starr Robertson.
Talking with Head Coach Jimmy Ballenger, each young lady plays an important role on the team, and it is a team effort.
As for the conference, two dates have been circled against the team that has won the conference nine times since ABAC has fielded a women’s soccer team, Darton State in the months to come. ABAC will first travel to Albany on September 21st, then host the Lady Cavs in the last game of the regular season October 14th. Other teams in the conference that fill the competitive conference slate of games include Georgia Military College, South Georgia College, Andrew College, and Gordon College. Outside of conference play, the Fillies will play Florida College twice.
Some goals that go unchanged for Ballenger’s squad year-round from season to season is to be the top team in the conference, and win the state tournament, but most importantly they strive to be the best student-athlete’s in the classroom scholastically, and to give back to the Tifton community.
Off the soccer field, the Fillies team this year has partnered with the Fulwood Garden Center. Once a month, they team up and work with the Garden members and help with any landscaping duties that might be needed. Some of the other things include working with Ruth’s Cottage, and Character Traits Curriculum, where the ladies pair up and go to local schools and daycares, which features a day filled with activities and mini life lessons.
On Campus, they help every year with the town and gown event, and “Walk-a-Mile in Her Shoes” event, and host in conjunction with Health and Human Sciences Department a “healthy relationship” presentation for students every September.
Being a student-athlete is a tough job, but the dedication from all the training year-round, to studying academically, to getting out in the community is what makes this Fillies soccer program complete.
“We know that playing ability is extremely important on the field, but we also put a lot of time into making sure their character fits our program and represent ABAC as well.” Ballenger noted.
Although many things throughout the year can change on the soccer field the standard of excellence for this program on and off the field will be exciting to watch as the season unfolds.