‘Cats Host Gardner-Webb Thursday in Women’s Soccer Season Opener
Just four months after a memorable postseason run, the Davidson women’s soccer team is returning to the pitch — and to the regularly scheduled fall season.
The Wildcats will open the 2021 campaign Thursday night at Alumni Stadium, when they host Gardner-Webb at 7 p.m. It’s also the first official contest on Davidson’s 2021-22 athletics calendar.
The Wildcats are coming off a 7-4-3 spring season, which culminated with the program’s first appearance in the Atlantic 10 Tournament final. The global pandemic forced the 2020 fall season to be played from February to April, making for a quick turnaround for all teams this fall. But the Wildcats have also had a full 16-day preseason for the first time in two years.
“The preseason has gone really well for the group,” said fifth-year head coach Adam Denton, the reigning A-10 Coach of the Year. “The players have adapted well and worked through. We had the opportunity to play a few exhibitions, which has allowed us to work with our new team, see players in positions and give us some flexibility as we build toward the season.”
Davidson has won its last two season openers, including 3-2 against Gardner-Webb in 2019, the teams’ last meeting. That day, the Wildcats scored three goals in the first 20 minutes en route to victory, with current players Sophia Caruso and Kendall Bushick scoring their first career goals.
The Wildcats won 1-0 at Western Carolina to open the spring season, behind a goal from returner Remi White.
“We’re looking forward to the season opener against Gardner-Webb on Thursday,” said Denton. “They’re a really strong team in the Big South Conference. It will be, as always, a tough game, but we’re excited to open up with a home game at Alumni Stadium and have the fans back in the stadium.”
Key players return
The Wildcats return nine starters from the team that won the A-10 South Division, including all-conference picks Mary Grace Bunch and Hailey Braemer, who were also named to the fall’s preseason all-conference list along with Caruso.
Bunch returns in goal, where she has logged nearly 2,500 career minutes with an 0.73 goals against average. She was an A-10 First Team pick in the spring after earning Second Team honors as a sophomore.
A forward, Braemer led the Wildcats with five goals, five assists and 15 points as a sophomore while earning A-10 Second Team honors. Her long goal gave the Wildcats a 1-0 lead in the A-10 final against Saint Louis.
In all, nine returners made double-digit starts a year ago, including midfielder Caruso and defenders Grace Voss and Keeley Cooper, who started all 14 matches alongside Bunch and Braemer.
Sam Cascio (13 starts), Hannah Casey (12), Rachel Schleicher (11) and Alexandra Menard (10) return to the lineup as well, and the Wildcats return a host of key contributors off the bench, including Bushick, White and Shannon Lytle.
Along with Braemer, Bushick, Caruso, Menard and White each scored multiple goals a year ago.
The Wildcats have added eight newcomers, including seven freshmen and junior Lindy Morgan, a transfer from Western Carolina.