Georgia soccer senior day

Team seniors are recognized during pre-game presentations before an NCAA soccer match between the University of Georgia and the University of Alabama at the Turner Soccer Complex in Athens, Ga., on Sunday, Oct., 21, 2018. (Photo by Lauren Tolbert)

Anna Bougas and Sydney Shultis weren’t recruited by current Georgia soccer head coach Billy Lesesne. Former head coach Steve Holeman, fired in November 2014, was the one who tried to woo them to Georgia.

But the pair decided to play at Georgia, even though the coach who recruited them was almost immediately fired after they committed.

Their decisions meant the world to Lesesne.

“[I was] real excited they stuck around,” he said Oct. 16. “It shows they’re really good people and what UGA soccer means to them.”

Shultis and Bougas, who were part of a pre-game Senior Day celebration on Sunday, decided that the coach's identity wasn’t what was most important to them. Instead, they prioritized things like proximity to home, the university’s academic reputation  and familial legacies.

“I decided to go to Georgia because it’s a great school,” Bougas said. ‘My dad went here. Great academics, great athletics…I didn’t want to transfer because I didn’t want to leave this school. Because this school is amazing and I really fell in love with the campus and the atmosphere.”

The coaching change meant little to Shultis, but she hesitated for a moment.

“There was a little bit [where] I was like, ‘maybe I should look up other places and then I was like, whatever,” she said. “I live an hour from here. [Georgia] is just like a really great place.”

Shultis also wanted to follow in the footsteps of her sister Carli.

“[I was] real excited they stuck around. It shows they’re really good people and what UGA soccer means to them.”

- Billy Lesesne, Georgia head soccer coach 

Both seniors have had some obstacles during their four years on the team. Shultis’ playing career officially ended before this season even started due to recurring stress fractures in her left leg. Bougas, meanwhile, has seen limited playing time.

Even still, they have found a way to remain positive.

“They both put the team first,” Lesesne said. “And that’s the most important thing.”

Georgia will have to carry on without them next season. Shultis sees great things in the younger players.

“After I leave, I think it’s really going to take off,” Shultis said. “I know there are a lot of freshman, but they’re all leaders individually. So I think that this year is almost like a buffer year.”

Back in 2014, Bougas played for the Gwinnett Soccer Academy. After Lesesne took the job, he traveled to Florida to watch her play. As soon as Bougas spotted Lesesne, whom she had never met before, she took the initiative, departed the field and introduced herself to him.

Introductions aren’t always that easy, but good-byes aren’t always this hard.

“We’re going to miss them,” freshman Abby Boyan said.

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