Friday means there's exactly one month until Miami-Dade County Public Schools -- and private schools that work off the MDCPS calendar -- fire up again. At the end of that week, we get the first playing-for-real FIU athletic event of the 2014-15 academic year, women's soccer hosting Arizona at 7 p.m.
Among the fall sports, FIU's best chance to win the school's first Conference USA title resides with the soccer women. FIU gets back fifth-year senior forward Chelsea Leiva and redshirt junior defender Nikki Rios -- best offensive and defensive players, both injury redshirts last year -- and have eight returning starters from last year's 7-12 injury-hampered team. So, this should look more like the team that won the Sun Belt in 2011 and got upset in the 2012 Sun Belt championship by North Texas.
Among the starters lost, two had eligibility left. Defender Jazmin Jones would've been heading into her junior season at FIU after starting 11 of 19 games last season. Alas, the Gig Harbor (Wash.) High graduate transferred a continental United States closer to home, to Washington State.
Goalie Paula Zuluaga started 13 games and had a 2.18 goals against average in 2013 as a redshirt junior with a year of eligibility left on the field. In the classroom, however, she was all senior, graduating magna cum laude with a Sports Management degree and a minor in Business. She's now an assistant coach at Johnson & Wales.