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Saturday, September 23, 2023


Cougars restock team for season

Normally, college sports are cyclical; even while seniors are leaving, talented underclassmen that have contributed on a smaller scale will step up and take over the mantle.

However, along with graduating seniors, the Cougar soccer team lost promising sophomore Jordan Godbolt and junior Courtney Gaines, who both transferred to the University of Texas.

On paper, this is very much a rebuilding year for the soccer team. There is but a lone senior on the roster, defender Ashleigh Williams. Even the coach, former UNC standout Susan Bush, is a rookie.

Much of the team’s success this year will depend on its backfield. Junior Maegan Kiphart, as well as sophomores Ali Conrad and Stephanie Beyelia, join junior keeper Shelby Scott, who spent the summer training with the Israeli National Women’s Team.

Sophomore Nikki Echevarria is the only returning midfielder from last year, but the midfield will also get some experience from junior Christine Nieva, who transferred from Arizona State.

They will both be charged with lobbing balls in the box toward junior forward Brittney Pfeiffer, who will be counted on to pick up much of the scoring slack and at 5-10 is the logical target for set pieces.

As far as who we could see emerging to join them, Bush said the team’s philosophy is, "you have to earn your playing time." Of the freshman, she spoke most highly of Laurie Byrne, who she called "quick and dynamic" and who she singled out as a possible replacement for Mundy up front.

Other freshmen who will get long looks include Stephanie Booker on the back line, Jessica Rathweg, redshirt sophomore Islara Rodriguez in the midfield and Crystal Trevino as a utility player.

"It’s hard to know where you want to go if you haven’t been there," Bush said. "I’ve played on a national championship team, and I know the commitment and the effort it takes to win.

Bush has her work cut out for her, as the third head coach in the team’s history opens up the season by facing the third-ranked UCLA Bruins at Robertson Stadium.

"We put on our socks the same way UCLA does," Bush said. "If we can keep the team compact and keep possession, we’ll have followed our game plan."

The Cougars’ goal for this season looks to remain about the same as it’s been for most of this decade: get back to the Conference USA tourney that they missed last year. From there, it’s just one game at a time. After all, they put their socks on the same way every other team does.

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