FGCU picked as A-Sun preseason favorite, Tindell, Blackwell, Brown win awards
As the winners of five-straight Atlantic Sun Regular Season Championships, the FGCU women’s soccer team has been selected to add a sixth-straight as the preseason favorite. In addition to the preseason standing, the Eagles picked up all three major awards as voted on by the league’s head coaches and announced by the conference Monday afternoon.
For the second-consecutive season, Tabby Tindell, Emma Blackwell and Brittany Brown earned the league’s major preseason awards as they were voted Preseason Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Goalkeeper of the Year, respectively. Tindell and Blackwell earned the honors unanimously after being named the Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year following the 2014 season.
“We start the season with a great feeling and great expectations as the preseason favorite,” said head coach Jim Blankenship. “But our players and our program have experienced enough to know that it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish and we’ll have to be playing at our best in November. It’s a great thing to be able to put that up in the locker room and show the team how high the expectations are, but it’s also a target for these other teams and it will take a lot of work to see it come true.”
In addition to their individual awards, Tindell (Ocala, Fla./Trinity Catholic High School), Blackwell (Jenks, Okla./Jenks High School) and Brown (Rochester, N.Y./Greece-Athena High School) were named to the Preseason All-Conference Team alongside teammates Ally Kasun (Lancaster, Pa./Hempfield High School) and Paulina Speckmaier (Miami, Fla./Gulliver Prep) to give the Eagles five players on the 12-person team. All five players earned the honor for the second-consecutive season this year.
Tindell, the 2014 A-Sun Player of the Year, was as good as advertised a year ago. She ranked in the top five in the nation in five offensive categories including game-winning goals (11 – First), points (48 – Third), Goals (20 – Third), Points per Game (2.40 – Fourth) and Goals per Game (1.00 – Fourth). Her 20 goals and 48 points led the A-Sun by wide margins over her own teammates and both set FGCU single-season records. Tindell set the FGCU all-time goals record with 35 in her career and is second with 82 points. Tindell has also showed a pension for distribution by handing out eight assists, which ranked second in the A-Sun.
Blackwell, the 2014 A-Sun Defensive Player of the Year, has served as the anchor of the FGCU defense. A year ago, she led the back line that allowed just 14 goals season and only two to A-Sun opponents. Throughout her career, the Jenks, Okla. native is consistently asked to mark the top offensive threat of the opposition for a defense that shutout 10 opponents last season. She started all 21 matches and left just one with an injury, otherwise playing every minute of every match for a total of 1,824 minutes in 2014. She picked up her first point of the season in the form of an assist at home against CSU Bakersfield and scored her first goal against Palm Beach Atlantic on a shot that she fired from approximately 40 yards outside the goal mouth. Her three points from the back line matched her 2013 season total.
Brown ranked second in the A-Sun in save percentage (.829) and led the league in goals-against average (0.67). She was the 2013 Goalkeeper of the Year and earned a position on the First Team All Conference last season. Since taking over the starting role during her freshman campaign, Brown has collected 43 wins, to top all players in FGCU history, against just 10 losses and seven ties. She is currently the FGCU career leader in three goalkeeping categories including wins (43), goals-against average (0.69), and save percentage (.838). She was named A-Sun Defensive Player of the Week once last season following a pair of stellar performances against the No. 2 and 3-seeds in the A-Sun Tournament, Lipscomb and Jacksonville. She collected 10 shutouts last year to tie a career high.
Speckmaier moved from consistently finding time off the bench as a forward two years ago to starting 20 of 21 matches last season as an attacking midfielder for the FGCU. Speckmaier contributed career-highs with eight goals and five assists for a career best 21 points which ranked third in the A-Sun behind teammates Tindell and Wacker. She also led the A-Sun with 76 shot opportunities. She scored her first goal of the season opposite Miami then added goals in back-to-back matches against FIU and Murray state. She scored two goals and handed out three assists against A-Sun competition last season and returns as the team’s second-highest goal producer, behind only Tindell.
Kasun assumed a less offensive role last season as a defensive midfielder but still helped the FGCU offensive effort. The Lancaster, Pa. native started all 21 of the team’s games last season and played 1,854 minutes for the Green and Blue. She tallied four goals and three assists with six points against A-Sun foes. After handing out an assist in the A-Sun opener against UNF, Kasun exploded for two goals against Northern Kentucky then assisted a goal against JU. She added a goal and assist against Palm Beach Atlantic before helping hold Stetson scoreless over 99 minutes in a match that clinched the Eagles an unblemished record in A-Sun play. She returns for her senior season as one of the team’s most valuable leaders.
As a unit, FGCU picked up 62 points in the preseason coaches’ poll with six first-place votes to earn the league’s top standing. The Eagles finished ahead of Jacksonville University by 15 points, while Lipscomb and Kennesaw State earned the remaining first-place votes. Jacksonville took the second position in the poll with 47 points, with Lipscomb (46) and Kennesaw State (46) rounding out the top four. North Florida (33), Stetson (29), USC Upstate (13) and the league’s newest member NJIT (12) rounded out the league in the coaches’ vote.
The Eagles open the 2015 campaign Friday, Aug. 21 with a 7 p.m. game against Ole Miss. The Atlantic Sun Conference slate will open Sept. 26 with North Florida at the FGCU Soccer Complex.
2015 Women’s Soccer Preseason Honors and Awards
*Preseason Player of the Year: Tabby Tindell, FGCU*
*Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Emma Blackwell, FGCU*
Preseason Goalkeeper of the Year: Brittany Brown, FGCU
Preseason All-Atlantic Sun Team
|GK||Brittany Brown||FGCU||Jr.||Rochester, N.Y.||Biology|
|*D||Emma Blackwell||FGCU||Sr.||Jenks, Okla.||Elementary Education|
|D||Carolyn Springsteen||Lipscomb||Jr.||Mason, Ohio||Accounting|
|D||Makeshia Lucien||Stetson||Sr.||Wellington, Fla.||Integrative Health Science|
|*MF||Brittney Reed||KSU||Jr.||Kennesaw, Ga.||Health & Exercise Science|
|MF||Ally Kasun||FGCU||Sr.||Lancaster, Pa.||Resort & Hospitality Management|
|MF||Paulina Speckmaier||FGCU||Jr.||Miami, Fla.||Communication|
|MF||Hanna Parado||North Florida||So.||Ponte Vedra, Fla.||Mechanical Engineering|
|F||Tabby Tindell||FGCU||Jr.||Ocala, Fla.||Exercise Science|
|F||Maggie Gaughan||KSU||Jr.||Marietta, Ga.||History Education|
|F||Sope Akindoju||Jacksonville||So.||Halifax, Nova Scotia||Biology|
|F||Ellen Lundy||Lipscomb||Jr.||Rogers, Ark.||Financial Management|
* – Denotes a unanimous selection to all-conference team
** – A tie in voting resulted in a 12-person team
Preseason Women’s Soccer Coaches Poll
|Kennesaw State (1)||46|
First-Place Votes in parenthesis