The Lady Bisons are in Georgia this weekend to face Kennesaw State (5-5-0, 3-2-0) Friday night at 6 and Mercer (4-6-2, 1-4-0) in Macon, Ga., Sunday afternoon at 1.
The Lady Bisons are 3-9-0, 1-3-0. They are 1-5-0 on the road. The Lady Bisons beat Kennesaw State 1-0 for the first time ever last season in Nashville. Kennesaw State is 3-1-0 overall against the Lady Bisons.
Kennesaw State lost 3-1 Sunday to Jacksonville. The Lady Bisons fell 3-0 to ETSU.
“It’s going to be a difficult weekend,” said Ireland. “But it is always difficult when we play conference games on the road.
“Our players know what to do. We gave them a little rest to help them get focused and to be ready to go.”
The Lady Bisons have a talented freshman class, but due to their inexperience they often make mistakes that can mean the difference in a game. Finding a balance between chastising them for mistakes and keeping the young players positive is a challenging balancing act for Ireland.
Freshmen defender Katie Wood and freshman midfielder Martika Powe have started all 12 games. Junior forward Kate Spellman and sophomore forward Kirsten Heikkinen are the only other players who have started all 12 games.
Spellman leads the team in points with eight (three goals, two assists). Freshman Andie Thornton is the only other player on the team with multiple goals with two.
“We try to keep them positive, yet at the same time we have to hold them accountable whether they are freshmen or upper class players,” said Ireland. “We understand the young players are going to make mistakes.
“So we talk every week about the big picture and where the program is heading. The players can tell a difference in the team. We are not being pummeled with shots from the other team any more. We are losing games due to mistakes.”
Kennesaw State was picked in preseason to win the Atlantic Sun Conference.
“They have a lot of confidence,” said Ireland. “They are used to winning.
“They are very athletic. They can cover a lot of ground. They are all over the field.”
Mercer's size is one of its biggest assets with the the Bears using a physical style of play.
“They have a lot of size and a lot of speed,” said Ireland. “They are one of the most skilled teams in the conference. “