Aug 22, 2013
CONWAY - Coming off a turnaround season that ended with double-digit victories, the Coastal Carolina women's soccer team is expecting to build on that success and take another step forward in 2013.
While the work toward that began in the spring and resumed when preseason camp started on August 7, the Chanticleers get their first official test Friday night when they take on Elon in the season opener at the CCU Soccer Field. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Despite dealing with a number of injuries and illnesses during the preseason, Chants head coach Paul Hogansays his team is ahead of where it was at this point last year and was pleased with how a shorthanded squad performed in last Sunday's 1-0 exhibition win over East Carolina.
"Getting a game under our belt against East Carolina was much needed," Hogan said. "Instead of playing against ourselves all the time we were able to get one group out there and I thought everybody played well. We saw some good things and obviously some things to work on. It will be a constant work in progress for this group because we are fairly young."
While 20 members of last year's squad return, they are joined by 11 newcomers, including 10 freshmen. With a number of upperclassmen sitting out, Hogan started three freshmen and four sophomores - including transfer Mikayla Williams- in the exhibition.
"We've never had our full squad available to us at any time (in preseason), but it's allowed other kids chances to show what they can do and some kids have really shown well," Hogan said.
"Mikayla, in our mind, is a new player, but she's one of our starting center backs and she's been very, very good. Sam Patterson has done a good job in the midfield, Ellie Taylor is a player we can use up front or in the midfield and Brianna Panicois going to be a handful because she's athletic. And other kids have done well too. They've been really coachable and have bought into the team so it's been good."
Williams, who comes to Coastal after playing one season at UMass, will combine with junior Rylie Johnson - who has moved to the backline from the midfield - to replace holes left by the graduation of Cami Skladany and transfer of Megan Wagner. Along with junior Maddie Phillips, who led the team in minutes last season, and seniors Amanda Clark and goalkeeper Megan Spencer, that unit is the team's most experienced.
With five of their top six scorers from last year back, the Chants have the potential to be very good offensively as well when they get everyone healthy. All-Big South first team selection Kacey Kelley and senior Christina Stern did not play in the exhibition, though Hogan is hopeful the Chants will be closer to full strength Friday.
Coastal faced Elon last season and posted a 3-0 shutout on the road. However, Hogan said the Phoenix were dealing with injury issues of their own then and does not expect this one to be quite as easy. In its lone exhibition contest, Elon played to a 1-1 draw with UNC Wilmington.
"We didn't really face a full-strength Elon team," he said. "They've got two very good coaches that do a great job. They play good soccer and will cause us issues."
After the opener, the Chanticleers begin a stretch of five consecutive games on the road when they visit Davidson on Sunday.