Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated how many goals were scored by graduating seniors last year. The Mercury regrets this error.
Despite going toe to toe with nationally ranked Hardin-Simmons in the ASC semi-finals last season, the Comets finished on the wrong end of the scoreboard. Heading into the current season, the young squad is looking to forge their own legacy.
Under first year head coach Kanute Drugan, the team saw a three win improvement from the previous season and boasted the best goal differential (+29) since the program’s 2011 campaign.
Now the roster has an entirely new make-up.
After losing nine seniors and all 11 members of last year’s starting line-up, Drugan has changed how he presents his style of soccer to the young team.
“You’re dealing with new people who are coming into this from various backgrounds of teaching,” he said. “Practice has been entirely different. If the seniors that just graduated had been here (when) we practiced, they wouldn’t have seen anything that (the team) would come out here with.”
Despite the lack of experience, the team’s personality has been positive.
“There’s so much energy … I’m really pleased about that,” said Drugan. “It’s the kind of group (where) nothing phases them. It’s not a mindset that we cultivated; (it’s) part of the cultural personality of the group.”
Even though the team lost a huge part of its core with the outgoing seniors, junior goalkeeper Kristi Istre doesn’t see it as a drop-off in talent.
“(Drugan) has been really good with getting us recruits and freshman that have been able to help us a lot,” she said. “Our biggest strength is our depth. We have a bench full of players that are prepared to go on the field at any time.”
Istre said the morale of the team is high and that the group is energized for the upcoming season.
“We’re confident and we’re having fun, which is the best part of soccer,” said Istre.
With few experienced players, the team will rely heavily on junior forward Megan Mugavero to generate the offense and provide leadership. Last season, Mugavero was named third team All-ASC and is the only returning all-conference player for the Comets.
The team scored 46 goals last season, but 35 of them left after last season. Mugavero accounted for nearly half of the remainder with five goals and pitched in five assists as well for a total of 15 points — tied for third best on the team.
Mugavero said she is prepared to do whatever the team asks of her in order to be successful.
“My personal goal (is) to be whatever role I get,” she said. “I’m a forward, so whether that’s to score goals for the team or just help support people and just be there (for them). (I want to) really step up as a leader this year.”
A recent pre-season poll picked the Comets to finish fourth in the ASC this season, behind Hardin-Simmons, UT Tyler and Mary Hardin-Baylor.
“It’s just fuel for the fire,” Mugavero said. “We’re just ready to go out there and show everybody.”