It will not take Lee women’s soccer coach Matt Yelton long to scope out his 2010 program. The Lady Flames will travel to Auburn University on Saturday and then play host to Columbus State (Ga.) the following Friday.
The exhibition matches against the NCAA Division I and II powers should have the two-time NAIA champs ready to open the regular season when they host the University of Mobile on Aug. 28 at 7 p.m.
The Lady Flames finished the 2009 season with a 22-2-1 record. Over the past two years, Yelton, the NAIA National Coach of the Year, has directed his clubs to a 46-3-2 mark, including back-to-back national titles.
Three All-Americans were lost to graduation, yet the Lee staff has racked up another tremendous recruiting year and Yelton feels his Lady Flames are ready to challenge for a third straight national crown.
Auburn posted a 6-5 record in the Southeastern Conference last year. The Lady Tigers were 10-9-1 overall, losing in the first round of the national tournament. The 2010 squad will be paced by First Team All-SEC pre-season picks Katy Frierson (midfield) and defender Sammy Towne.
The SEC allows its teams to play a spring exhibition season. Auburn was 4-0 with wins over LSU, Tennessee, Alabama-Birmingham and Central Florida.
Lee will counter with junior Jamie Achten, the Offensive MVP of this past year’s national tournament. Sophomore keeper Leah Wilson was a Third Team All-American in 2009, but might be forced to share time with a pair of goalkeepers who are fighting for playing time. Sophomore Kim Conrad was All-SSAC last season and Clair Lanter made the second All-SSAC squad.
“Auburn has a terrific program with a first-class staff, and it will take a complete performance from our team to play with and against them,” said Yelton. “They have been to multiple NCAA tournaments and I certainly respect what they have accomplished as a program and the quality of what they do.
“In these two exhibition matches we should really find out what we are made of,” he added. “Auburn and Columbus State are both excellent programs in their respective divisions and we will have a tough test both times out.”
The Lady Flames have been forced to find ways to work around the tremendous heat that has blanketed the southeast over the past two weeks. Still Yelton says his preseason has gone well.
“Like other teams we have picked up a few minor injuries that will keep a few players from playing in the early going,” the coach noted. “Overall, I am pleased with the talent level of our team. If we can stay healthy and get ourselves where we need to be in terms of our fitness, I believe we will have the opportunity to have another successful season.”
Saturday’s contest at the Auburn Soccer Complex begins at 7 p.m. (EDT) and next Saturday’s home date with Columbus State is slated for a 6 p.m. start.