The College of Charleston’s women’s soccer team kicked off their season at Patriots Point Sunday afternoon, losing 2-0 #22 ranked Clemson.
The match was the final game of the inaugural Charleston/ Nike Classic. Friday’s slate of games were washed out by an afternoon storm, barring College of Charleston (7-11-1 last season) from facing an ACC opponent, Miami. In the early game Sunday, Texas topped Miami, 1-0.
In the opening minutes of the game, the Cougars played defensively with Clemson controlling possession. The lone big play of the first half came off the first quality opportunity for the College. Nicole Koretsky beamed her feed from a corner kick off of the crossbar in the 34th minute. The ricochet from the cross spurred a Clemson counter attack, from the Cougars committing too many people forward for the corner. Clemson midfielder Jeni Erickson led Patrice DiPasquale right up the middle into the box for a precise low finish past Cougar keeper Genevieve Henderson.
The Cougars changed their goalkeepers at the half, swapping in Lauren Killian for Henderson but the second half was more of the same. In the 60th minute a Cougar defender misplayed a Clemson cross, setting up Lauren Harkes on the doorstep, for a one-timer past Killian to double the lead.
Charleston struggled to string together more than three passes on their late game counter attacks, and were greatly out possessed throughout. They seemed as though they were missing their leading scorer from a year ago, Sarah Cardamone, who graduated after starting all four years.
Coach Christian Michner, entering his sixth season as the Cougars’ head coach, commented on how the team plans to fill in for Cardamone this season. “It’s going to be by committee, we’ve got a lot of good players that play up top, including returning players Nicole Koeretsky and Hope Walker who have been great for us over the years. A lot of our young players will be stepping up and into the mix, and we began to see that today. So we’re looking at a group of players, not just one, to go in and give us great minutes.”
One of the biggest changes in the starting lineup from last season will be the positioning of Hope Walker. Last year, Walker started all 19 games as the team’s right back, but a good crop of freshman recruits on the back line has allowed her to move up to midfield for her senior campaign to try to help bolster the offense.
“She was a forward growing up, and even her first year here at Charleston she played as a forward for us, out of necessity, we moved her to the back line the last two years.” Coach Michner said, “So it was kind of getting her back into her comfort zone from where we saw her play in youth soccer. It allows us to get our best group of players on the field by moving her up front.”
In addition to the back line, Michner is confident that the strength of this year’s team will be their depth. They return seven of their top eight leading scorers from last year, and added ten freshmen in their recruiting class.
“We’ve got a lot of players, a lot of players that can play, we’ve got way more depth on this team than any Charleston team that I’ve coached, so we have the ability to run players in and out a lot. We’ve got incredible senior leadership, the three captains are phenomenal and have been a huge part of our program their first three years here, and we expect they’ll play a huge role for us going forward.”
Their depth was apparent Sunday, as they cycled 19 players onto the field in game, including two goalkeepers. The positional battle in net is one of the biggest story lines to watch this season.
“We’ve got four great goalkeepers, Lauren Killian and Genevieve Henderson have risen to the top as our top two keepers right now, and there’s not much that separates them.” Michner said. “They both have played very well and both challenge each other in the training sessions. We are waiting for one of them to really separate her from the other, but it’s too close to call right now, so we’re happy to play both.”
The Cougars’ next two games are on the road, with match ups against VCU Friday, Aug. 28 (5 pm.) and Radford Aug. 30 (1 pm.).