By: Kristen Janes, Staff Writer
After an impressive 2018 season, Furman’s soccer teams are ready to show, yet again, why the women’s and men’s teams have been so dominant in the Southern Conference for the past five seasons.
On the women’s side, a Southern Conference title in 2015 spurred the team to the top of the Southern Conference during the regular season in 2017, but the team missed the title. Longtime coach Andrew Burr has led the women’s team to four conference championships in the last seven seasons, showing fierce competitiveness and perseverance. Those appearances were made possible by a confident and focused team.
Senior midfielder Caitlyn Reilly, named first team All-Southern Conference, and outstanding senior goalkeeper Kellsey Weaver, who notched five shutouts last season, are the base of a senior squad, leading the push for a ring this season. In the backfield with Weaver is key senior defender Jordan Evens, who was a major player last season, allowing just 15 goals while starting in all 19 regular season games. Evens is assisted by another senior defender, Arianna Milicia, who also played in all 19 games last season.
The veteran squad is backed by a younger midfield in sophomores Erin Houlihan and Isabella Gutierrez, who tied at six goals a piece to lead the team, as well as Grace Baghdady, who was named Southern Conference All-Freshman last season. Also a sophomore, Ellie Perkins is a favorite to lead the team into more success, coming off of a spot on England’s U-18 team before her freshman year and showing strong recovery from a knee injury.
Under head coach Doug Allison, the Furman men’s squad has seen three conference titles since 2014. Back-to-back wins in 2014 and 2015 inspired confidence in a younger team of freshman who would later go on to win the title again in 2018. After their final season, senior standouts Laurence Wyke and Danny Kierath join the likes of Clint Dempsey and Walker Zimmerman in professional soccer. Wyke, named Most Valuable Player in the 2018 Conference Championship Tournament, joins Zimmerman in the MLS on Atlanta United 2, while Kierath looked abroad to join Wuppertaler SV in Germany.
Remaining members are now stepping up to push for another title. Senior captains Jack Shiels and Conor Sloan are not forces to be easily matched by opponents. Shiels shows aggressive passion and strong leadership as the center of defense, and Sloan has the speed and quick thinking expected of a veteran midfielder.
The two senior captains lead senior midfielder Emery May, who netted two of the three goals in last year’s 3-0 title win over UNCG. The front line is also advanced by redshirt junior forward Cole Mclagan, a driving talent sure to make last minute, game saving plays again this year. The quickness of the midfield and the strength of the defense is capped off by goalkeeper Ben Hale, who started all 22 games last season to be named Southern Conference Goalkeeper of the Year.
After this year’s large group of seniors heads off, a young, but growing team of sophomores in defenseman Arnor Adalsteinsson and forward Garrett Singletary will lead the up and coming group in a try for another title.