written by: Alex Tostado
Valdosta State will play its final regular season home game on Sunday against a worn North Alabama (4-7-2, 2-4-2) team.
The Blazers come into the weekend with a spot in the Gulf South Conference Tournament. VSU is trying to solidify the No. 2 seed in the tourney. UNA needs vital wins in the final few games of the season to try to get themselves into the tournament.
“North Alabama will never be weak,” VSU head coach Mel Heinz said. “They are a strong team. They haven’t been blown out by any teams.”
VSU and UNA have a young, rich history. The Blazers beat the Lions in VSU’s inaugural season and then lost in the conference tournament the same year; there has been bad blood ever since.
“(The Lions) have a new coach so that new coach is trying to figure it out,” Coach Heinz said. The old players are there, the ones that don’t like VSU. It’s reciprocal; we don’t like UNA.”
Coach Heinz knows that it will not be an automatic win and is looking forward to the match.
“We battle and we’ve got some payback,” Coach Heinz said. “(I want my girls) to work extremely hard. Not to just go out there and try, but to work extremely hard.”
The Blazers are expecting UNA to play their best and won’t let records decide the game.
“I think it’s just like football,” Coach Heinz said. “(UNA) just comes and plays. They are here to rock the Blazers’ world.”
The Blazers will honor two players before the game for Senior Day. Senior Emily Cooper will be honored alongside junior teammate Lauren Hale. Hale will be leaving VSU to attend engineering school at Georgia Tech.
Cooper is treating this weekend as any other weekend and not letting the hype of the rivalry get to her head.
“Honestly, it doesn’t mean too much more than a normal game to me,” Cooper said. “I mean, it’s going to be the last time I get to play at home and of course it has been amazing playing or this program, but at the end of the day, it’s just a normal game.”
“We have a lot of unfinished business with (UNA),” Cooper said. “It’s a game I would like to put away early and easily.”