Kennesaw State’s soccer team defeated Tennessee Tech University 2-1 in an exhibition match Tuesday, Aug. 8 giving it momentum heading into the season opener at Winthrop University on Friday, Aug. 18.
After losing some of the best players on their roster, the Owls have to find a way to recreate last season’s success. The top four scorers from last year’s campaign all graduated, leaving head coach Benji Walton with a very young squad heading into the 2017-18 season. Out of the 26 student-athletes on the team, 19 are either freshmen or sophomores. With the lack of experience, confidence will be paramount to the potential success of the young team.
“With so many young players on the roster, this game was huge for us and provided an opportunity to get the nerves out and experience the tempo of the game,” Walton said. “Getting the good result will do a lot to build our confidence.”
Indeed, it was a freshman who scored the first goal for the Owls, as Erin Harris slid one past the TTU keeper in minute 21. Right before halftime, the Golden Eagles managed to tie the game up, but junior Carly Pressgrove scored midway through the second half to put KSU ahead for good. With so many new faces and unknown qualities, coach Walton used this match as an opportunity to utilize most of the squad. Twenty total players touched the pitch, with 11 of 13 freshmen seeing playing time.
“I am proud of the team’s effort tonight,” Walton said. “It is always good to have an opportunity to measure yourself this early in the season against a good team like Tennessee Tech.”
Despite how young the team is, many talented players are returning from last season that will have to step up and lead if the Owls want to make it back to the ASUN Semifinals. Also, the opportunities that will inevitably be afforded to the many freshmen will give them all a chance to prove themselves.
The defense is the most settled unit on the team, with seniors Abby Roth, Ida Hepsoe and Kaitlyn Sterling leading the way along with sophomore Sydney Crowley, who started all 19 matches last year as a freshman.
At midfield, Pressgrove will be an important factor alongside sophomores Isabella Contreras and Emely Sosa. The forwards are the youngest unit, and it remains to be seen who the breakout scorer will be for the Owls this year.
As the team heads into the new season, the leadership of the few upperclassmen — and the competition between younger players — are hoped to bring out the best in everyone and propel the Owls to a winning record. The Owls return to Fifth Third Bank Stadium on Sept. 1 to play their first home game of the season against Morehead State.