The East Tennessee State women’s soccer team opens its season tonight at Wofford with a new coach, nine new players and rather modest expectations.
Adam Sayers thinks his first team here has a good chemistry at the very least.
“I’m happy with how things are progressing,” Sayers said Thursday. “We certainly made a big improvement from our first exhibition to the second, and that’s a credit to the players. We took some lessons from the Campbell game (a 1-1 draw), tweaked some things and implemented some new things.
“I think we’re ready to go.”
The Lady Bucs won 2-0 in their exhibition Tuesday night at Presbyterian.
Freshmen Jenna Caudle and Taylor Maxson scored within two minutes of each other midway through the second period. They are among nine freshmen on the ETSU roster.
“It’s a big group, and some of them are going to have influential roles this season,” said Sayers. “The new players have injected a lot of enthusiasm into the team.”
The Lady Bucs were picked eighth in the Atlantic Sun Conference preseason poll. They’ll play eight matches before getting into league play here against South Carolina Upstate on Sept. 23. The home opener is next Friday night against Tennessee Tech.
Sophomore forward Ramey Kerns tied for the team lead last season with six goals and 13 points. Kayla White, another sophomore, scored three goals.
Early on, Sayers hopes this team can develop “flexibility in style, where as much as possible we can control games. We’ll have to see where our major strengths lie, but I’m very encouraged.”
The men’s soccer team led 2-1 in its exhibition match at Virginia last Sunday when rain halted the action after 38 minutes. You won’t find any mention of it on the Cavaliers’ website.
The Bucs stayed overnight and the teams played again on Monday, with the 22nd-ranked Cavaliers taking a 1-0 victory. That much you can read about.
“My understanding of how we were going to play was that we’d continue the match at 2-1 the next day and play a little extra for substitutes,” ETSU coach Scott Calabrese said Thursday. “Of course, Virginia would like to pretend that 2-1 situation didn’t exist. They said, let’s start from scratch.”
David Haba and Alesi Osorio had given the Bucs a two-goal edge before Virginia scored in the 33rd minute. Five minutes later the match was called and vanished from memory in Charlottesville.
Calabrese has not forgotten.
“I was very pleased to have brought this group together so quickly and gotten the amount of chances we had against a very talented Virginia team,” he said. “The whole trip was a test for our team. We spent the night, when no one actually packed a bag to spend the night, and we played very early the next morning. We didn’t play as well as the night before, but it was a learning experience.
“You have to be cognizant that there will be strange situations along the way. You’re going to have adversity, and you have to respond.”
The Bucs don’t have another exhibition before their season opener here against Presbyterian on Aug. 27. They can use the time to get a few players healthy; Theo Yang, Matt Reed and Jaron Westbrook are all nursing ankle injuries.
n The volleyball team has a tough act to follow after winning 26 matches last season, the most for the program since 1978.
After more than a week of workouts, coach Lindsey Devine likes the mindset of this group, which features six newcomers.
“I’m really impressed with this talented class of incoming freshmen,” said Devine. “They’re really sticking out. I’d say three of them have the potential to get a lot of minutes.
“Our returnees have also come back physically stronger this fall. In past years we’ve had a dip in physicality, but there’s no dip this year.”
Devine would like to pick up where the Lady Bucs left off last season, with one exception.
“We want to get to that championship game (in conference) and win it,” she said. “We were very close last year, and our underclassmen understand what we need to do. It’s just a matter of reinforcing that winning culture with the new players.
“The standards have been very high in our gym so far.”
The Lady Bucs open Aug. 26 against Evansville in a tournament at North Carolina-Greensboro.
Softball coach Brad Irwin has added one of the all-time great players in the Southern Conference to his coaching staff.
Tiffany Baker hit 50 home runs during her career at Chattanooga, which shattered the school and SoCon records. Eighteen of those came last season as the Lady Mocs won the regular-season championship for the fourth straight year.
Irwin was a Chattanooga assistant for the first three of those years.
“Tiffany was an outstanding player and has one of the strongest work ethics I’ve ever seen,” said Irwin. “Nobody outworks Tiffany Baker.”
Baker was also named the Southern Conference nominee for NCAA Woman of the Year; she graduated last week magna cum laude.