CONWAY — In his second season as Coastal Carolina women’s soccer coach, Paul Hogan saw his Chanticleers post an eight-game improvement in the win column and surge five spots up the Big South Conference standings. And yet he’s also constantly reminded of how far the program still is from its goal.
“We talked to the kids the other day and our ideal mentality would be that we are the two most dominant teams in Big South soccer, men and women – that we win every year,” Hogan said. “And that’s our goal. So there’s a lot to live up [to] with those guys, but that’s the fun part for us.”
The Coastal men’s soccer team is ranked No. 8 in the country and in the midst of what could go down as the best season in program history before all is said and done.
So, yes, that comparison is a ways off at this point. But after a rough start while struggling to a 2-15-2 record in Hogan’s first season at the helm, the Coastal women are no doubt moving in the right direction.
They had won seven of their final nine regular-season games and finished fifth in the Big South standings before a first-round exit in the conference tournament Oct. 27, and perhaps most importantly, they found an identity this season. The team allowed 0.91 goals per game in conference play and, according to Hogan’s own records, allowed the fewest shots (88) and shots on goal (40) over its 11 league games.
“And we know there’s a lot more we can get from the current group,” Hogan said.
The Chants will lose six seniors – including three starters – but a strong nucleus remains intact. Leading scorer Kacey Kelley finished with nine goals as a sophomore this year, junior goalkeeper Megan Spencer was solid with a 1.14 goals-against average, Fia Jonsson (six goals, five assists) was the Big South’s freshman of the year and the team has a nice core of young central midfielders in Jonsson, Camille Christie, Miki Antzoulatos and Darbie Kelley who all received significant experience this fall as freshmen.
“We do bring a lot back,” Hogan said. “I’m excited about the group that will be coming in. I think there will be much more competitiveness, much more depth and I think that’s what we’re building upon.”
Hogan readily admits the process has been slower than he would have preferred to this point, but that’s part of setting high expectations.
“[I was] overall pleased with the quality of the effort, the quality of commitment to change how we play,” Hogan said. “So that was very good. But we’re never satisfied. Especially being around the men. ... That motivates us as a staff as much as anything. Same with the players.”
Baseball wraps up fall practice
The Coastal baseball team recently concluded its fall practice period, and coach Gary Gilmore described it as a meet-and-greet of sorts for the team with new coaches on staff and an influx of young players.
“It was just us getting used to each other and sharing ideas on staff and hopefully taking what good things we’ve done and continue to learn from each other, and playing-wise trying to figure out where guys go, what they can do and what they can’t do,” Gilmore said.
“I don’t know that there were any significant individuals that have just blown us away, so to speak. The one thing I do think is it is as competitive for playing time and spots as anytime I’ve ever coached here. I hope that means it’s good.”
Junior outfielder Jacob May was the most impressive player through the fall, Gilmore said, and after a late-season surge last spring the hope is that he will have the full breakout season in 2013 that many have predicted for him.
Junior right-hander Tyler Herb and sophomore lefty Ben Smith remain the only sure things in the starting rotation, meanwhile, as much competition remains for spots on the pitching staff and through the lineup.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Gilmore said. “The one thing this group has that reminds me of some of the best teams I’ve coached here and at [USC-Aiken] and of the 2010 team, they’re field rats. They love being here and they love competing against each other, which is a hard thing to teach. Too often kids are complacent competing against each other, but not this group.”
On the schedule
The Coastal men’s soccer team continues Big South tournament play Friday afternoon in Greensboro, N.C., with a semifinal game against High Point. The Chants defeated the Panthers, 1-0, in the regular-season finale. They have now won 14 straight games overall. ... The Coastal volleyball team concludes its regular season with a pair of home games Friday against Campbell and Saturday against High Point.
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318.