The Cougars began their 2015 season on Friday night, by hosting Seton Hall Pirates in the 14th annual Aaron Olitsky Memorial Tournament. The Cougars displayed their much improved offense as they dominated the Pirates (3-1), the win marked the first time since 2012 that the Cougars began the season with a victory.
The Cougars were slated to close out the tournament with NC State Sunday afternoon, but heavy rains caused the game to be relocated to Raleigh, NC on Monday (7 pm).
The tournament is named in honor of Aaron Olitsky, a former walk-on freshman turned starter of the class of 1997, who died in a tragic car accident in 2001. Olitsky was one of the hardest working defenders to ever take the field for CofC. He was an integral part of the Cougars winning conference tournaments all four years he was in the lineup (1993-96), reaching the NCAA tournament three consecutive years (1994-96).
In Friday night’s season opener, the Cougars displayed that they are ready to put the critics to rest, and put struggles of last year (2-11-1) behind them. Nico Rittmeyer led the attack with two goals, the as the team’s leading scorer from last year, he showed he intends to build off of his honor of preseason all-CAA honorable mention. The Cougar newcomers also got in on the scoring action, when transfer student Nicolas Jeausseran assisted Rittmeyer on his first goal, and later when fellow transfer Eli Dent tallied the go-ahead goal in the 65th minute.
After collecting just 15 goals in 14 games a season ago, the team is showing real promise on the attack. Rather than looking for a stock of Freshman to come in and rebuild, this year’s Cougar team has hoped to reload by adding four experienced transfer students. Hamilton Carlin, Eli Dent, Nicolas Jeausseran and Lorenz Esposito will look to produce right away.
Led by for a 29th straight season by Head Coach Ralph Lundy, fifth all-time on the NCAA men’s soccer coaching wins list, believes that Friday night’s results are a sign that this year’s team will be better in recent years. “A lot of that quality came because we had a good many players who can come in and perform at a high level.”
Since making the change from the Southern Conference to the Colonial Athletic Association, the Cougars have had very little success (2-10-3 record). The CAA has proved to be a bit of a step up in competition from the SoCon, as evident by having 4 representatives in the NCAA tournament each of the two seasons since CofC’s arrival. However, despite their unsightly record, the Cougars have been competitive, dropping seven of their ten losses by just one goal.
“We didn’t score enough goals last year. Our defenders did well, and the attacking players did well they just did not create enough so we got more pieces for this year.” Coach Ralph Lundy, entering his 29th season as the Cougars head coach, said. “We’ve added some attacking players. It’s a nice squad with a lot of depth.”
Year after year, Lundy schedules a grueling slate of non-conference games. This year’s slate includes a trips to UC Santa Barbara (Sept. 18) and North Carolina (Oct. 13).
“The whole schedule is tough, there’s nobody easy, there’s not one easy game in our schedule. Our conference is a real tough conference, and as for our non-conference games, I get to choose them and I always choose the best because that’s where the College of Charleston should play.”
One big hit to the team’s prospects came prior to the opener, when Khalil Stewart (played with Jamaica in the 2014 U-20 World Cup qualifier) tore his ACL on the first day of fall practice. As a result, the promising freshman midfielder will miss the duration of the season. The other key injury which will affect playing time in the early parts of the season is Goalkeeper Brian Kilgallon’s sprained ankle. Kilgallon started in all 7 games he played for the Cougars in 2014, and was expected to start from day one in 2015. Senior keeper Alex Young started in his place Friday night.
”We had a tough record last year. It was a tough season. The schedule is unforgiving, you have to rise to the challenge of this monstrous schedule, now that’s a lot of pressure, but the boys want to play the best, I want to play the best. That’s where the College of Charleston should be, and we’ve been there many times in my career, and we’re going to get back there this year.”