Taking over a young women’s soccer program that produced just one win in 17 tries last fall, new Southwestern Assemblies of God University head coach Mandy Fortner has her work cut out for her. She has hit the ground running.

“We’re excited about getting started,” she said as spring turned into the month of May. “There’s much to get done and no time to waste.”

The Lady Lions will begin their sixth season in mid-August intent on moving from competitive towards contending. Having started in 2006, the program has struggled through its formative years, going 0-13, 2-16, and 2-14-2 under Jeremy Tosaya (now the head coach at Dakota Wesleyan), and 4-11-1 and 1-15-1 with Tim Grant at the helm.

Fortner, who had an illustrated All-American collegiate career as a high-scoring forward, must replace three of SAGU’s best-ever players. Forward Madison Wells, defender Sarah Powell and goalie Tracy Griffin graduated.

The Lady Lions are members in the Red River Athletic Conference, which has 10 schools fielding women’s soccer. Following nine non-conference games, Southwestern will play the other nine league foes. Five of those games will be played at home. Of SAGU’s 18 games, half are on the sod of Southwestern Field, considered one of the best playing surfaces in the RRAC.

Only three of the nine road games are outside of the Lone Star State. They will don their solid purple threads when they travel to Oklahoma City, Okla. to face Southwestern Christian University in August; to Shreveport, La., in September when they tangle with LSU-Shreveport; and then trek 350 miles to Hobbs, N.M., for a clash with the University of the Southwest.

With Griffin between the pipes and Powell roaming the defensive backfield, SAGU has held its own in limiting opposing scorers. Griffin, in fact, has led the conference in saves and was No. 2 nationally last year.

As impressive as they have been, much of the reason  for the lack of success has been the Lady Lions’ limitations in controlling the ball at midfield and lack of production on the frontline. Those will be the object of Fortner’s recruiting focus.

The Lady Lions will likely build around 5-foot-9 Natalie Horton. She has played forward, scoring six goals as a freshman, then both midfield and defender.

The team expects several key performers return, including senior Dani Garcia, junior Jessica Powell, junior Nicole Martinez, Lyndi Garrison, Noelle Pugliese, Perla Tiky Acosta, junior Flor Carrillo (Waxahachie), Shelby Morgan and players who were red-shirts.

Fortner has issued a strong summer challenge to returning players and incoming newcomers. An advocate of physical conditioning and proper dieting, she believes a team that is in shape can achieve more as a result. Her personal example serves as an inspiring pattern.

The Lady Lions report to fall camp on Aug. 12, just days before they travel west to face Western Texas College on Aug. 16. They have two home tilts prior to students arriving on campus.

SAGU has a pair of games the week school begins: Sept. 5 against Central Baptist College, from Conway, Ark.; they play host to Dallas Christian College four days later.

Women’s 2011 Soccer Schedule

Date    Opponent                 Location    Time

8/16    Western Texas College         Snyder, TX    1:00   

8/20    Wayland Baptist Uni.           Home    11 a.m.

8/24    Mid-American Christian      Home    3 p.m.

8/30    Southwestern Christian        Okla.    1 p.m.

9/2    UT-Dallas                             Dallas    7 p.m.   

9/5    Central Baptist College        Home    11 a.m.        9/9    Dallas Christian College      Home    3 p.m.

9/12    Wayland Baptist Uni.           Plainview    TBA

9/17    U. of Houston at Victoria     Houston    TBA

9/22    Northwood University*       Cedar Hill    1 p.m.

9/24    LSU-Shreveport*                 Shreveport    1 p.m.

9/29    Bacone College*                  Home    1 p.m.

10/1    Texas College*                     Home    1 p.m.

10/13    Lady of the Lake Univ*       Home    1 p.m.

10/15    UT-Brownsville*                  Home    11 a.m.

10/20    Wesleyan University*           Ft. Worth    5:30 p.m.   

10/22    Univ of the Southwest*        Hobbs, NM    11 a.m.

10/29    Huston-Tillotson Uni.*         Home    1 p.m.

*Red River Athletic Conference games