After a preseason in which the College of Charleston men’s soccer team finished with an undefeated record (3-0-0), expectations are running high for the coming season.
Last year’s team earned the program’s best record since 2010 (7-8-2, 4-3-1 CAA), though it featured only three seniors. A successful 2015 regular season earned the Cougars a berth in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament for the first time since joining the conference in 2013.
Although the tournament run came to an end in a quarterfinals loss at the hands of James Madison, Charleston showed grit in defeat. Faced with a 3-0 deficit with 15 minutes left in the second half, the Cougars rallied behind goals from Leland Archer and Nicolas Jeausseran to cut the margin to one. Though they had multiple shots to tie in the game’s final minutes, the margin was ultimately too great to overcome.
The experienced Cougars return 17 upperclassmen to this year’s roster (eight seniors and nine juniors). This wealth of experience will prove crucial early in the season, as the Cougars face a daunting non-conference slate of opponents that includes five teams who appeared in the NCAA Tournament last year (North Carolina, Coastal Carolina, Florida International, Seattle and Furman).
In three early-August exhibition games, Charleston defeated North Florida (2-1), Queens (5-2) and No. 24 South Carolina (2-0).
Avery Ryan, fresh off an injury shortened 2015 campaign recorded a hat trick in the game with Queens and two assists against South Carolina. Senior striker and last year’s lead scorer, Nico Rittmeyer picked up where he left off last fall, with two goals against the Gamecocks.
Ralph Lundy’s steadying presence returns to the sidelines for a 30th consecutive season. In the offseason, he signed a four-year contract extension to remain the Cougars’ head coach through the 2019 season. He ranks fourth among active Division I head coaches in wins (432-311-55 overall, 302-240-42 at Charleston).
The College kicks off the season this weekend in the Aaron Olitsky Memorial Soccer Classic at Patriots Point as they play host to Navy (Friday, 7:30 p.m.) and No. 23 Florida International (Sunday, 2:30 p.m.).