Lady Chants enter soccer season cautiously optimistic

As the Coastal Carolina women’s soccer team gets set to begin the 2012 season Friday night at Kentucky, head coach Paul Hogan described his outlook as “cautiously optimistic.”

There is no doubt that the second-year coach expects the Chanticleers to be much improved. It’s just a matter of how quickly that progress comes.

The Chants will be tested right away with a formidable opponent from the SEC, a lengthy road trip and a quick turnaround for their home opener on Sunday against Francis Marion.

“It’s going to be difficult,” Hogan said. “I know the physical toll that will be spent on Friday night and then on a long bus ride back on Saturday, but that’s part of the challenge. Welcome to college soccer.”

With eight starters and 18 letterwinners returning, this year’s squad does have a large number of players with experience at this level under their belt. Included in that group are seven of the team’s top eight scorers from last season, along with sophomore Maddie Phillips and senior Cami Skladany as defensive leaders. Junior Cisca Okoko is also back after recovering from a knee injury she suffered early last season.

However, there are quite a few new faces as well. Hogan is excited about a group of 12 freshmen and two transfers, including freshman Fia Jonsson and sophomore Meagan Borger. Jonsson played for Sweden at the U15 and U16 levels, while Borger started 16 games at Florida Atlantic last year.

“There may be some ups and downs the next couple weeks but we kind of expect that with so many new players,” Hogan said. “We’re hoping by mid-September we’ve got most of it down and we’re ready for our conference tests. And at the end of the day, that’s what we’re evaluated on.”

Hogan expects to know a lot more about his team after the opener against a Kentucky team that he predicts could be ranked among the top 15 in the nation by the end of the year.

“If we can compete with this team for periods of time, then when we get into our conference play, I think we’ll be ready to compete and hopefully make a run at a conference championship,”

Friday’s game kicks off at 7 p.m., as does Sunday’s home contest against Francis Marion. Fans can follow both matches live on Gametracker at GoCCUSports.com.

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