The Coastal Carolina women’s soccer team has two games left in the regular season, both scheduled to be played at CCU Soccer Field.
The timing couldn’t be any better.
The Chanticleers are coming off a stretch in which they were on the road for 15 of 18 days – elongated by having to move a pair of home games to Appalachian State University because of the threat and effects from Hurricane Matthew.
“It’s been a crazy couple weeks for us,” CCU coach Paul Hogan said.
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Despite a grueling stretch that started Sept. 30 with a 1-0 win at Georgia Southern and ended Sunday with a 4-1 loss at South Alabama, the Chants came out 4-1-1 and sit in first place in the Sun Belt Conference.
South Alabama’s really good. They beat the No. 1 team in the country this year and they’ve won the last three league titles. So they’re a good team; we knew they’d be good.
CCU coach Paul Hogan
In between, Coastal (9-5-2, 6-2-1 Sun Belt) won 1-0 at Texas State, posted victories in Boone, N.C., against Texas State (1-0) and Louisiana-Monroe (4-0), tied at 2 in a road game at Little Rock and won 2-0 at Troy.
Before losing to the second-place Jaguars (11-4-1, 6-2), the Chants had a five-game unbeaten streak – despite all the chaos.
“It’s just been a long ride for our kids. But we’ve been really good,” Hogan said. “… Man, that’s pretty awesome for us to come back and do that well on the road.”
While CCU sits in first place with 19 points, the loss to South Alabama (18 points) could prove critical as the Jaguars can leapfrog the Chants should they win their final two conference matches. Coastal has just one conference match left – Sunday’s meeting with Louisiana-Lafayette – in addition to a Wednesday non-conference match against South Carolina State, and several scenarios could play out.
“They have two games left and we have one, so there’s still a chance we could win the regular-season championship if things go well – or if things go badly for South Alabama and good for us,” Hogan said. “Still a lot to play for, including seeding for the tournament.”
Statistically, the Chants aren’t dominating in either offense or defense, sitting tied for third in goals scored (27) and third in goals allowed (16). Perhaps that’s because some of their best play has come in the parts of the field that don’t offer many scoring chances.
“We’ve had some consistent play. I think it starts with Sam Patterson, who’s our defensive midfield player; she’s been fantastic. Her work rate has been really, really good. She does a lot to protect our back four,” Hogan said. “I think [Melanie] Flatter, a senior, has been doing a good job, really kind of leading the team. … But I think one of our freshmen, Kylie [Bostick], she’s been really, really good. She’s our left side center back. … She’s been really good. She’s got great service. She’s a big, tall kid, strong and she’s really, really composed. So we’ve been really impressed with her play the last three weeks.
“So I feel pretty good with where we are in the back. Obviously you always want to get better and make some adjustments, but I think the whole group has really gelled pretty well.”
And really our defense is kind of an impetus to our attack. In the last three games both center backs have scored a goal and our right back has scored a goal. So they’re not just defenders, they’re key to what we do on the attack side. They’ve been very good two-way players.
CCU coach Paul Hogan
With two games left before the Sun Belt tournament begins Nov. 2 in Foley, Ala., Hogan has a few areas in which he would like to see his team improve.
“I’d like to do just a little bit more of keeping the ball, a little better job of situational play, ending games out,” he said. “I’ve been pretty impressed with our group’s overall attitude. We’ve gone through everything we’ve gone through so I can’t really ask more from the kids effort-wise. But just a little bit more discipline in how we play. We tell our kids all the time: ‘It’s the little details that wins you championships.’ You’ve got to be disciplined in everything you do, so we’ll ask our kids to be more of that in every realm of what we do.”
The first task will be starting another unbeaten streak, and the more important of the final two games includes the Sun Belt’s top goal-scoring team in Louisiana-Lafayette (33 goals).
“We want to have two shutouts. That’s just kind of where we start our whole team,” Hogan said of heading into this week’s games. “It sounds so simple and so dumb, but if they can’t score they can’t win. That’s our mentality, to keep teams to very few shots … very few chances.”
Should the Chants do just that, it’s possible they could head into their first Sun Belt tournament as a No. 1 seed.
“Especially with the hurricane and all, I think shocked, to be honest,” Hogan said when asked if first place is where he figured his team would be at this point. “All these teams are really good. We’ve had some great results against some good teams on the road and playing up at App. We got evacuated on Wednesday and we missed a bunch of practices. There’s a lot of things going on.
“So with all of that, I’m extremely proud of our group and excited. If you told me that all these things would happen [and we’d be in first place], I’d say fantastic. Still hoping to grind it out and get some help from somebody else. But all we can control is what we do and our main goal is to take care of Lafayette next Sunday.”
Wednesday: vs. South Carolina State, 6 p.m.
Sunday: vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, noon