Ola AjayiStaff Writer
The smell of fresh cut grass on the main soccer field across from the Waterview Park Phase III apartments means one thing to the soccer buff: the new season is here.
The men’s and women’s soccer teams both shared a similar fate last season, reaching the American Southwest Conference tournament only to lose to UT Tyler and Harding-Simmons, respectively.
For the women, 2008 was mostly a year of rebuilding as they lost four of their regular starters at the end of 2007. Losing that many players and coming out second, best to a powerful team means 2008 could still to be a successful year for the women.
Looking at their performance last term, the women would be convinced they have what it takes to bring the title back home in 2009, five years since they last lifted the trophy.
With a major chunk of his team returning this season, head women’s soccer coach John Antonisse believes the Comets are capable of doing just that.
“We have a strong team. I think we are good enough to get to the (ASC) Championship, and I think we are good enough to win it,” he said.
Although the Comets lost only two players to graduation last term, the team is already expecting a number of recruits this fall.
“We recruit year-round,” Antonisse said. “We have 11 freshmen coming, and already have three commitments for 2010.”
Antonisse said he plans to rely more on the older players who have garnered experience and played through the previous season.
The men, who last won the title in 2007, also look to mount a challenge for the title this season. Having come agonizingly close to retaining the title in 2008, the 2009 season sees them return to the pitch with the title on their minds.
Assistant men’s soccer coach Jason Hirsch said losing the chance to retain the trophy in the final championship game last season was a learning experience for the team.
Although the team lost Kevin White, its most prolific scorer last term to graduation, many players will return for the new season. Hirsch said he has a number of players in the squad who are capable of replacing the departed forward.
The men’s soccer team has seen its recruitment numbers rise in recent years. This season about 15 recruits hope to join, the same number at the start of the 2008 season. Hirsch attributes the recent increase in recruitment numbers to the team performance and the coaches’ dedication.
“We get out and watch a lot of league games and tournaments. We get a hold of the players and invite them to come and take a look at the campus and meet with us,” he said.
The team has never missed the playoffs when eligible in the 11 years of the program’s existence and Hirsch doesn’t see a reason why this year would be any different.
“We have a lot of quality returning players and a lot of quality new players. Between the two groups, we have a good team. I can see us having a very good year,” he said.
Practice resumed Aug. 17, and both the women and the men want to be crowned champions at the end of the season. The women would love to prove that they have finally found a way to getting the better of Hardin-Simmons, their perpetual championship rivals, while the men want to prove that their 2007 success was just a sign of things to come.