Samford has had its fair share of success over the past decade. From baseball appearing in super regionals, to volleyball winning three consecutive conference championships, to Track and Field sweeping men’s and women’s conference championships, it is safe to say that the Bulldogs are one of the best programs in the Southern Conference.
But Samford Soccer is a different breed.
On Oct. 15, the Bulldogs won the SoCon Regular Season Championship after defeating Western Carolina 2-1 on the road. They have now won eight consecutive Southern Conference regular-season titles.
As of today, the Bulldogs are still undefeated in the conference and are tearing through each and every opponent. However, the Bulldogs’ stature has been tested plenty of times this season.
Samford’s pre-SoCon schedule was not a walk in the park by any standards. The Bulldogs played their fair share of Power 5 opponents, including Auburn, Alabama, Texas and Ole Miss, which they came out of with 1-2-1 record.
Though there was concern that the tough introductory to the 2021 season would result in a battered team for the conference schedule, the Bulldogs have been on fire.
The Bulldogs have currently won eight consecutive games, outsourcing their opponents 22-4 during that period. Perhaps head coach Todd Yelton and his squad were out to prove something after the SoCon ranked them second in the preseason power rankings.
“Absolutely (the ranking) motivated us,” junior midfielder Mary Raymond said. “I wish everyone could see our soccer group chat from the day the poll was published — it was filled with so much determination to win, and that just proves how much we love one another and this program and how badly we wanted to extend our winning streak.”
This Bulldogs team has dominated through the talent of multiple experienced players, both offensively and defensively.
The Bulldogs’ top scorer is senior midfielder Alyssa Frazier, who has six goals on the season. Frazier also leads the team with seven assists, making her one of the premier offensive talents in the conference.
Yelton’s junior class has contributed some incredible numbers this season, especially on the offensive end. Juniors Taylor Yount, Kylie Gazza and Mary Raymond all have five goals this season.
Defensively, senior Morgan McAslan has been dominant during SoCon play. She has only allowed four goals against conference opponents, and her save percentage for the entire season is a stellar 81 percent.
The Bulldogs are currently ranked as the top team in the SoCon, but are also ranked in the nation’s top 50 by the NCAA. Now, the Bulldogs are looking toward making the NCAA Tournament, which they fell short of last season.
“This team gives it their all at every single practice, and that translates to the games,” Raymond said. “We need to keep our focus on our end goal but continue to take it one game at a time. The SoCon is very competitive this year, so every single game is an absolute battle.”
In order to make the tournament, Samford will most likely need to win the conference tournament later this month. Last season, the Bulldogs fell to the Furman Paladins in the championship game 2-1 in overtime. There is a significant chance that the Bulldogs and Paladins will meet in the championship round for the third consecutive season.
However, the Bulldogs did get their revenge on Furman on Oct. 10 with a 4-0 victory. It is definitely ironic that the one team ranked higher than Samford in the preseason SoCon polls was also the Bulldogs’ biggest margin of victory the entire conference schedule.
The Southern Conference tournament will begin on Oct. 29 on Shauna Yelton field in Birmingham, Alabama. Updates on the tournament bracket will be posted on the official Samford Sports and Southern Conference websites.
NOTE: This article was written prior to Samford’s regular season finale against Chattanooga on Oct. 24. Some stats, standing, and records could be different than what is written.