For the last two seasons, the Coastal Carolina women’s soccer team has made it to the Sun Belt Championship game, only to fall to South Alabama in both appearances.
The South Alabama Lady Jaguars have won the last five Sun Belt Conference tournament championships.
Coastal Carolina looks to finally put an end to that streak as well as their current four-game losing streak to South Alabama this season.
Sophomore goalkeeper Rylee Atteberry opened up about the 2017 Sun Belt title game loss and how she has been preparing for the 2018 season.
“[The Sun Belt Championship] definitely left a bad taste in your mouth, especially when we played them so well in the regular season,” said Atteberry. “While we have only been training for the past couple of days, Eva Knapstein, another goalkeeper on the team, has been really pushing me and I’ve been pushing her. That’s really helped me get better and prepared for the season.”
Atteberry finished the 2017 season with 78 saves and allowed 32 goals. While 14 of those goals came in two games, a 9-1 loss to Georgia and the 5-0 Sun Belt Championship game, she said that this year’s teams’ defense looks more confident than last year’s team.
“I think that the defense has completely turned around for this season,” said Atteberry. “Last year, we weren’t a very defensive-minded team in my opinion. These first few practices that we have been having have been all about defensive strategy and positioning.”
Head Coach Paul Hogan is now entering his eighth season as head coach and he says that while there are a lot of new faces on the team this year, there is great energy at each training session.
“We are at a point right now where we are trying to figure out our strengths as a collective team and each player’s individual strength,” said Hogan. “We have four transfers and eight freshmen so that is a lot of new faces to work with. I like what I am seeing so far but we do have a long way to go.”
While Hogan does have to handle the loss of two seniors in Daniella Famili and Brenna Leftwich, he says that he has noticed a lot of younger players stepping up into a leadership role.
“That is the evolution of a team,” said Hogan. “Which of these younger kids are willing to step up and play a more definitive role on the team. We want to get everything we can out of our seniors but also utilize the younger kids and their strengths.”
One of those younger players that is looking to make her mark this year is Elisabeth Rockhill, a sophomore forward from Baltimore, Md.
Rockhill scored three goals last season, good enough for fourth most on the team, as well as racking up three assists on the year. She said she’s excited to see what she can bring to the table for the team this season.
“I know I need to bring it a bit more this year than I did last year,” said Rockhill. “I need to be smarter and try to score as much as I can as well as help my teammates find the back of the net.”
Coastal Carolina plays two exhibition games before their season opener at Davidson on Aug. 17. The Chanticleers host the Citadel Tuesday, Aug. 7 at 7 p.m. at CCU Soccer Stadium and then Elon comes to Conway on Saturday, Aug. 11 for a 7 p.m. kickoff.