Before the 2018 season began, there was hope among the Georgia State women’s soccer program that this would be the year things changed. This was year three of head coach Ed Joyce’s tenure, and Georgia State had a 12-17-9 record under him.
Joyce brought in his first recruiting class this season, and the team returned seven starters and had four seniors. Two of those seniors, Caitlyn Ray, and Moe Hundley, have stuck with the program through those disappointing losing seasons. Hudley was named to the All-Sun Belt second team at the end of the season. And Ray was named to the All-tournament team after the conference tournament.
Halfway through the season, things seemed to be the same when the Panthers got off to a 2-9-1 start. Senior Brooke Smith’s game-winning goal against Troy was the beginning of the Panthers’ fortunes changing.
That was Smith’s only goal this season, but it was a big one. That goal helped to turn the team’s fortunes around.
“My performance this year changed drastically from my first year, I actually got fit and gained confidence through playing so I thought this year I did pretty well,” Smith said.
The Panthers went on to defeat Troy 3-2 and afterward won four straight matches.
“I feel as if the biggest difference was that everything was finally coming together,” Ray said. “From the beginning of the season everyone has bought into what we wanted to do as a team but during the second half of the season is when it started to show in terms of results.”
The Panthers finished the regular season on a 6-1-1 streak. The win streak led them to the Sun Belt Conference tournament where they upset No. 3 Coastal Carolina before falling to Little Rock in the semifinals. Ray, Hundley, Smith and Madi Card were the four seniors who helped turn the season and the program around.
Card, who transferred from Butler, spent one season with the Panthers. The goalkeeper made her presence known this season and was awarded for it with an All-Sun Belt Second Team selection.
“This one season at GSU was more than I could have hoped for,” Card said. “The girls were all so welcoming and created such a fun environment. I think what I will remember the most was the openness I received from the girls and just being back on the field again playing the sport I love.”
Card played in 12 games this season, going 7-2-1, and giving up 12 goals. She also made 48 saves and recorded two shutouts.
“I feel so thankful for having the opportunity to utilize my medical redshirt to play my 5th year and receive my Master’s Degree,” Card said. “I couldn’t be happier with the way the season went and I am very happy with my performance and the performance of the team.”
The Panthers will return 28 of the 32 players from this year’s team next season, but the leadership and skills that are leaving with the four seniors will be hard to replace.
“Being a soccer player at Georgia State will be one of the best memories of my life,” Ray said. “Georgia State is a place where I have created so many great memories and met so many lifelong friends. I am truly blessed to have gotten the opportunity to be a part of this program.”
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