Trojans face test in season opener
By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on August 26, 2009 1:46 PM
A culture of understanding is what Mount Olive College head women's soccer coach Matt Hisler is trying to build within his youthful program..
A big step in the team's development will come Thursday night when the Trojans battle No. 21-ranked UNC Pembroke in the season opener for both schools.
"Pembroke has a very good team and I think it will be good for our girls to be tested early," said Hisler. "To play a team ranked in the top 25, it gives our team a chance to see what a premier program plays like, and to see what we need to do to get to that level."
Mount Olive will have to gel quickly in order to keep pace, a task that could be more challenging than usual due to the team's overall lack of experience. Hisler welcomes 13 new faces into the ranks this season.
"We have 26 players on the roster and 13 of them are new to Mount Olive," said Hisler. "We brought in some very talented freshmen and a few transfers, and we are hoping to put a very enthusiastic and competitive team on the field throughout the year."
With so many question marks regarding the rotation, it would be easy for Hisler to use the word "rebuilding." However, the second-year head coach was not about to concede anything.
Instead Hisler turned the focus on his returning players, a group that he expects to provide much-need leadership on and off the field.
"Lauren Condon and Rebeccah Hecke are two that I think will be key parts of this team's success," said Hisler. "Each of them brings a lot of ability to go along with their college experience."
Condon, a senior defender from Fayetteville, will be charged with leading the Trojan's back line. Last season Mount Olive struggled to keep opponents from firing at keeper Lyndsey McIntyre and allowed 48 goals in 20 games. MOC was out-shot 305-174 by its opponents.
Hecke, who played in 17 games last year primarily in the midfield, will bring much needed energy to the Trojans' attack. A transfer from North Greenville (S.C.) University, Hecke has impressed Hisler with her toughness.
"She is a very physical player and she has a very good mindset," said Hisler. "She always has a smile on her face, and her attitude and enthusiasm make her a fun player to watch."
In the days leading up to the season opener, Hisler's toughest hurdle to clear has been getting everyone on the same page. Improving upon last year's six-win season will depend on how steep the learning curve is for each of program's newcomers.
"Right now we are trying to build understanding with each new face," said Hisler. "We have a direction for this program and we need everyone to be on the same page in order to make progress."
During the annual preseason coaches meeting the Trojans were tabbed to finish sixth in Conference Carolinas play after an eighth-place showing in 2008. Perennial league force Queens was picked to win the conference and Pfeiffer garnered second-place honors in the poll.
"I like where we are picked to finish," said Hisler. "I don't necessarily think that is where we will finish because I think we can be better than sixth. But it serves as motivational tool as we get into some of those league games."