Preseason hopes

After a successful 2016 season, Charlotte women's soccer has high expectations for 2017

| August 3, 2017

Martha Thomas moves around WKU defenders in the conference tournament last season. NT File Photo

Women’s soccer has set the bar high for themselves. The squad was crowned the Conference USA champions after winning the tournament in Charlotte last season, then went on to compete in their first NCAA tournament under head coach John Cullen. Though the group was knocked out in the first round by Duke, it left the girls with a hunger to return to the tournament in the 2017 season.

“To get there was an achievement and we were proud of that, but the consensus right there, within an hour of the game finishing, was that we wanted to be back there again. We don’t want to be a one-and-done kind of team,” Cullen said.

The team begins its tournament run on Aug. 7 with an exhibition game against Georgia State at 7 p.m. at Transamerica field. They then travel up to Virginia Tech on Aug. 12 to play their second exhibition game of the season.

“It’ll be really exciting. Exhibition matches are really important, they kind of define how your season is going to go,” senior Martha Thomas said. “It’s an opportunity to show what you can do for the rest of the season.”

After the two exhibition matches, the 49ers begin their regular season with a treacherous non-conference slate. The team will face foes including USF, Georgia, Wake Forest and East Carolina, all teams who were competitive during their conference tournaments in 2016. The difficult lineup isn’t a new sight for the Charlotte team, however. They faced a similar task last season, facing opponents such as South Carolina and UNC.

“We’re really up against it, but that’s what really helped us last year.  We pushed ourselves and played teams like North Carolina, South Carolina, and learned more about ourselves. Those kinds of games are great prep games for our conference games. But overall the non-conference games are very challenging, but when you win something that’s what you want to do to test yourselves,” Cullen said.

The core of the 49ers will return to the field this season. Thomas will kick off her senior campaign this season after being awarded the Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year award last season.  Also returning is the 2016 Freshman of the Year, Megan Greene. Riley Orr, who made the C-USA Freshman team along with Greene, will be back in action as well.

In addition to the familiar faces, Charlotte added eight new signees and one transfer player to their roster. Many of the newcomers will be seen in the backfield as two of them are goalkeepers and four are defenders. The exhibition games will be the first time for the new players to get a taste for what Charlotte soccer is about.

“The quicker we can get them on the field, in front of the 49er fans, wearing that 49ers jersey, that’s what their dreams are about, what their hopes are. Then once the regular season comes around they feel a little more comfortable in that setting and a little bit more as a player in the group,” Cullen said.

While the Conference Championship last season will serve as motivation for the group going forward, Cullen makes sure to not dwell too long in the past.

“I think most of this sport is self-belief and mentality so they know it is within them. As we’ve reminded them constantly since that day has ended that that’s history,” Cullen said. ”That trophy is gathering dust and we’ve got to go win another trophy.”

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Category:Sports, Women's Soccer

Kathleen Cook Kathleen Cook is the sports editor of the Niner Times and from Wake Forest, North Carolina. When the junior communication major/journalism minor isn't covering the 49ers, she enjoys spending time with her family, friend, and dog. Kathleen can also be found cheering on the Panthers every Sunday and rooting for the Washington Nationals.

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Kathleen Cook Kathleen Cook is the sports editor of the Niner Times and from Wake Forest, North Carolina. When the junior communication major/journalism minor isn't covering the 49ers, she enjoys spending time with her family, friend, and dog. Kathleen can also be found cheering on the Panthers every Sunday and rooting for the Washington Nationals.

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