MIAMI (March 23, 2012) -- There's an unfamiliar feeling in spring camp this semester for the FIU women's soccer team.
The squad that's coming off its second Sun Belt Conference Tournament Championship and first NCAA Tournament appearance in 18 years is now tasked with replacing eight graduating seniors heading into the 2012-13 season. But, it is certainly an obtainable goal with a strong core of players returning.
"Several of the girls had to step up into leadership roles now that the seniors have left, and that aspect has gotten a lot better since the spring has gone on," sophomore Nicole DiPerna said. "We're starting to fill the gaps and the hole that they left and things are looking good."
Playing shorthanded during the spring has been difficult for the Panthers, but it has allowed the team to remain focused and work harder.
"I think (Head Coach) Thomas (Chestnutt) is doing a great job of not letting our heads get too big because we won (the SBC) last year," sophomore Chelsea Leiva said. "We have to keep progressing to keep winning. The spring has been difficult because we're down in numbers (of players), but we're accomplishing a lot and getting a lot of work done."
Head Coach Thomas Chestnutt has used this time to clean up some aspects of his team's game, especially on the offensive side where the Panthers struggled at times last season.
"We're working on a lot of formations and technical things to improve for next year, like getting our passes and touches better," DiPerna said. "We've been working on a lot of shooting and making sure all our tactical aspects are better."
FIU has matched up with teams around the state in the past month including Florida Gulf Coast and Jacksonville. The Panthers also earned a 0-0 draw against Florida on the road in Gainesville, Fla.
The spring season will wrap up on Sunday, March 25, when the Panthers take on a local club team at 4 p.m., followed by an Alumni Game scheduled for 6 p.m. Both games will be played at the FIU Soccer Stadium.
About FIU Athletics: FIU Athletics is home to more than 400 student-athletes in 18 different sports, and is a proud member of the Sun Belt Conference and an affiliate member of Conference USA (men's soccer). Athletic events are played in seven different venues on FIU's campuses (Modesto A. Maidique and Biscayne Bay), including U.S. Century Bank Arena and Alfonso Field at FIU Stadium.
About FIU: Florida International University is recognized as a Carnegie engaged university. Its colleges and schools offer more than 180 bachelor's, master's and doctoral programs in fields such as engineering, international relations, architecture, law and medicine. As one of South Florida's anchor institutions, FIU is worlds ahead in its local and global engagement, finding solutions to the most challenging problems of our time. FIU emphasizes research as a major component of its mission and enrolls nearly 48,000 students in two campuses and three centers including FIU Downtown on Brickell and the Miami Beach Urban Studios. More than 140,000 alumni live and work in South Florida. FIU is a member of the Sun Belt Conference and has 400 student-athletes participating in 18 sports. For more information about FIU, visit www.fiu.edu.
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