Jags play Florida in NCAA Soccer tournament Friday


South Alabama has the longest active streak of conference tournament titles in Division I with five.

The Jaguars have won a league-record five straight tournament titles and four consecutive regular-season crowns.

USA will be playing an NCAA Tournament game in the state of Florida for the fourth time in five years. The previous three occasions were at Florida State.

The Jags are 1-1 in postseason games against SEC schools. USA defeated LSU 4-0 in 2015, but lost 4-0 at Auburn last year.

The Jaguars haven't given up multiple goals in a game since a 2-1 defeat to Alabama on Sept. 1, a span of 15 games, which is the longest stretch in school history.

The Jags have blanked their last five opponents, their longest shutout streak of the season, and have eight clean sheets in 2017.

The Jaguars have outshot their opponent 16 times in the last 18 games.

USA is 3-0-1 in overtime games this season (3-0 in Sun Belt play). Last year, the Jags went 0-3-1 in extra time.

The 5-0 victory Sunday in the Sun Belt final is the team's largest of the year.

USA is 7-1 in one-goal games this season since starting the year 0-3.

The Jaguars are 51-6-4 in games against conference schools (regular season and tournament) in the last five seasons.

Florida is the third nationally-ranked opponent that South Alabama will face this season. The Jaguars opened the year at No. 10 Auburn and No. 15 Florida State. USA is 1-4 against top-25 schools in the last two years.

Rio Hardy was named the 2017 Sun Belt Player of the Year and Hannah Godfrey was voted the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year.

South Alabama placed a league-high seven players on the two all-Sun Belt teams. Rio and Steffi Hardy, Danielle Henley and Hannah Godfrey were on the first team and Selma Bjorgvinsdottir, Chelsea Followwell and Kory Dixon were voted to the second.

Rio Hardy has a seven-match point streak, 30 points in her last 11 games, and 13 goals in her last 11 outings.

Hardy leads the conference in points (37), goals (16) and game-winning goals (6). She ranks tied for third in Division I in goals and is fifth in points.

In South Alabama's single-season history, Hardy is tied for third in goals and game-winning goals, and tied for sixth in points.

Hardy is tied for fourth among all active Division I players with 43 career goals, and eighth with 103 points.

Kory Dixon, who entered the Sun Belt Tournament with three career goals, had three in the semifinals and finals, and added two assists. She had her first career brace in the semifinals vs. Little Rock with a pair of second-half goals, then had a goal and two assists vs. Coastal Carolina.

Chelsea Followwell has recorded three of her five assists this season in the last two games. She had one in the semifinals and two in the final to help tie her career high set in 2016. Followwell has 16 assists in her career, tied for 11th in school history.

Justice Stanford has 18 career shutouts, tied for fourth in school history.


On playing in the NCAA Tournament: "It's an exciting opportunity. To play a team as prestigious as Florida is a great opportunity, but we've played these teams. They've knocked off a few top dogs, like Stanford, but they've had some close games against some lower-achieving teams. They're a team like anyone else - they have their highs and their lows. I'm excited about what we've accomplished, and going into the tournament, we're in the best shape we could be in and playing our best soccer. Mentally, we know to expect a completely different level. The SEC and ACC teams that we've played this year are hands down a league above our conference."

On if games vs. Florida State and Auburn helped prepare them for this: "What didn't help our team was having a new coaching staff that hadn't experienced anything like that. In soccer sometimes, you have a tendency to overthink it. Maybe if we had the chance to play them again, we would do things a lot differently. I'd like to think we've grown as a team and a coaching staff through the challenges we've had this season. We're going to go into this weekend to try and have a go at them. We'll have a gameplan, we'll stick to it and we'll see what happens, but we know they're going to be good. Everybody worldwide knows the Florida Gators. We're excited for the challenge."

On how the defense has played lately: "Defensively we had some challenging players to take care of this week and the girls did it well. We looked good in the run of play and on set pieces, and every challenge that teams threw at us, we handled it very well. Coastal Carolina had nine shots, but the way we played, we invited them in. As a unit, we looked very good. We've been able to stay consistent with a back four that have grown into the team that we've got. Being able to play them every game, getting used to each other, and Justice (Stanford) in the goal playing well, we're in good shape going into the weekend."

On Florida's most dangerous players: "We watched Deanne Rose play against Vanderbilt, and even defending a corner, within the flick of a switch, she's in their 18-yard box putting the ball in the back of the net. She's electric, and if she ever gets away from you, you're never going to catch her. That's a player that we have to keep an eye on. Lais Araujo is their playmaker in the middle of the park. She's a young lady with all sorts of different techniques to disguise passes. She's very difficult to read where she's going to play the next ball. Those two are very appealing to me as a coach just because their ability is phenomenal."(Gainesville)--