Chanticleers hit the pitch with No. 17 national ranking

With the opening of fall camp on Wednesday the success and numerous accolades of 2011 Coastal Carolina men’s soccer season is now a part of history and all focus is now on the present and what lays ahead for the Chanticleer soccer program.

However, a few things remain from the spectacular 2011 season that featured an 18-4-0 record, a perfect 9-0-0 conference regular season mark that resulted in the program’s 10th Big South regular season championship and an appearance in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

At the top of that list is national respect as the Chanticleers start the season ranked 17th in the NSCAA/Continental Tire national preseason poll, the official poll recognized by the NCAA. Also on the list is the return of M.A.C Hermann Trophy semifinalist, 2011 NSCAA first team All-American, 2011 Big South Attacking Player of the Year and 2011-12 Big South Student-Athlete of the Year Ashton Bennett, who led the nation in goals (23), total points (53) and points per game (2.41) as a junior.

In addition to Bennett, the Chants return nine players from last year’s team that led the NCAA in scoring with 66 total goals, including NSCAA third team All-American Pedro Ribeiro and Big South Freshman of the Year Kjartan Sigurdsson. Also back for the 2012 campaign is All-Big South first team honoree Justin Portillo and All-Freshman team members Ricky Garbanzo and Henrik Robstad.

Head coach Shaun Docking, who won his sixth overall Big South Coach of the Year honor in 2011, welcomes 14 newcomers to the program. With the vast skill and experience the group brings, each of the newcomers is expected to vie for significant playing time right away.

Docking and his staff will need to find replacements along the defensive spine of the team as the squad lost 2011 Big South Defensive Player of the Year Cyprian Hedrick, a center back, and first team All-Big South goalkeeper Scott Angevineto graduation. Both Hedrick and Angevine are currently members of Major League Soccer’s Sporting Kansas City.

Coastal starts its trek toward a third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance and eighth since the 2001 season when the season officially opens on Friday, Aug. 24 against newly minted Big South member Longwood at 7 p.m. on the CCU Soccer Field.

Before the official kickoff, the Chants will learn much about their strengths and weaknesses as the team travels to defending national champion and preseason No. 1 North Carolina in rematch of the second round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament, which was won 3-2 by the Tar Heels, for an exhibition game on Saturday, Aug. 18.

Photo courtesy of CCU Athletics

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