No. 10 Coastal opens soccer season with lofty goals

The No. 10-ranked Coastal Carolina men’s soccer team kicks off the 2012 season Friday  at 7:30 p.m. as the Chanticleers host Longwood at the CCU Soccer Field.

A year removed from an 18-4-0 overall mark, a perfect 9-0-0 league record which led to the program’s 10th Big South regular season title, a NCAA Tournament second round appearance and a No. 16 final national ranking the expectations for this year’s team are higher than any other team in Coastal soccer history.

For only the second time in program history the Shaun Docking led Chants are ranked in the preseason polls coming in as high as 10th by College Soccer News. In addition, returners Ashton Bennett, Pedro Ribeiro and Kjartan Sigurdssonhave received a fair share of individual preseason accolades.

Bennett, who led the NCAA in goals with 23 in 2011, has been tabbed as the 2012 Big South Preseason Attacking Player of the Year as voted on by the league’s head coaches after garnering the award last season. The Clarendon, Jamaica, native has also been named to the M.A.C. Hermann Trophy Watch List and a preseason first team All-American by both College Soccer News and CollegeSportsMadness.com. Bennett was a semifinalist for the Hermann Trophy, the highest individual honor in college soccer, a year ago while earning first team All-American honors. In addition, College Soccer News believes the speedy senior striker is a favorite to come away with the Hermann Trophy.

Ribeiro, a rising junior, has also been named to the Hermann Trophy Watch List making Coastal one of eight programs nationwide to have multiple student-athletes on the prestigious list. The Brazilian midfielder has been a constant in the Chanticleer lineup since his freshman campaign. Last season Ribeiro joined Bennett as an NSCAA All-American, earning third team honors. He finished tops on the team with eight assists while finding the net nine times himself — including a pair of game-winners against Gardner-Webb and High Point — as Coastal netted 66 goals as a team which was the highest goal output in the nation. Ribeiro was a NSCAA All-South Atlantic Region first team honoree and first team All-Big South Conference selection in 2011 as well as a Big South All-Freshman team member in 2010.

Sigurdsson burst onto the scene as a freshman in 2011 and quickly earned a starting role along the Chants backline that allowed only 22 goals through 22 games. This season he has been named the conference’s Preseason Defensive Player of the Year and one of 10 Sophomores To Watch by Top Drawer Soccer. The central defender garnered 2011 Big South Freshman of the Year honors. Sigurdsson, who earned both first team All-Big South and All-Freshman team honors last season, and his line mates held opponents to only 90 shots on goal and a mere .101 shot percentage, while helping the Coastal goalkeepers combine for seven clean sheets.

In addition to Bennett, Ribeiro and Sigurdsson Docking also returns eight letter winners from last season’s squad. Included in the returners are starters defender Henrik Robstad, midfielder Justin Portillo (4g, 4a), forward Ricky Garbanzo (6g, 7a), and defender Shawn McLaws.

The 2012 Chanticleers will also feature 14 new faces on the roster, including five freshmen, five Division I transfers and four junior college transfers. Docking will look upon these newcomers to step up and contribute immediately and throughout the season as the Chants must find replacements for 2011 Big South Defensive Player of the Year Cyprian Hedrick and three-year starting goalkeeper Scott Angevine, both of whom signed professional contracts with Major League Soccer’s Sporting KC.

After Friday’s game against Longwood, Coastal, the league’s preseason pick to win the Big South championship, will travel north to play 2012 national runner-up Charlotte in a top 10 showdown on Monday, Aug. 27, followed by a trip to Big Ten power Ohio State on Friday, Aug. 31. Coastal split last season’s matches against Charlotte and Ohio State, falling to the then ranked 23rd 49ers 2-1 in the season opener before defeating the then 21st ranked Buckeyes 2-0 during the CCU Tournament.

Photo courtesy of CCU Athletics

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