|Preseason favorites open camp Thursday|
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Charlotte women’s soccer team opened its 21st season of preseason training Thursday morning under beautiful, blue skies. The 49ers, picked to win Conference USA by the league’s head coaches, return to the field this afternoon, gearing up for the squad’s first exhibition contest just five days away.
Eight starters and 20 letterwinners return for head coach John Cullen’s sixth year. A batch of 10 newcomers also joins the fold, comprising one of the largest rosters in program history in 2014.
Charlotte is coming off a season in which it captured the C-USA East Division crown with 17 points, following a 5-3-2 league mark. The Niners were rewarded for their success in the preseason coaches’ poll, released Tuesday.
The team is led by Preseason Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year Monica Trickett and Preseason All-Conference USA honoree Amanda Jones. The duo will serve as this year’s captains after putting together career years last fall, as each collected All-Conference USA Second Team and All-Conference USA Tournament Team accolades.
Trickett’s experience along the backline anchors a group which also includes returning starters Nicole Anderson, Taylor Dulaney and Shelby Hicks. Anderson garnered All-Conference USA Freshman Team plaudits last fall.
Other returners who will see action as defenders include Kaitlin Walker, Loren Reilley and Becky Forcellini.
Newcomers to the defensive third include Shea Dwyer, Justine Lockman, Cannon Clough and Haley Thoma.
The quartet will be playing in front a goalkeeping trio that has mixed collegiate experience at this point. Annika McHenry has played the most of the three and was an All-Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week choice during the 2012 campaign. She filled in for the graduated Alex Kubrick at the midway mark last year before suffering a season-ending injury.
Alex Weaver is the only other goalkeeper on the roster with collegiate experience, as she played limited minutes last fall after McHenry’s injury. Freshman Anna Shelden enters the fold and provides solid depth at the position.
In the midfield, Cullen welcomes back stalwarts Sara Trexler, Maddie Kiebel, Jones and Jennifer Lee. The quartet has seen plenty of game action throughout their respective careers and is expected to contribute heavily again in 2014.
A mix of other returners and newcomers round out the depth, including Allye Reynolds, Rebecca Beatty, Ari Reilley, Kyla Clark, Caitlin Donovan and Bella Osborne.
Up top, Cullen is looking for compliments to Jones’ 10 goals a season ago. Jessica Ryan was well on her way with four prior to suffering a season-ending injury just before league play started. She is back, as are Alex Meyers, Perri Bonner and Tori Fubara, who was named to the All-Conference USA Academic Second Team in 2013.
New faces to the forward slots include Martha Thomas and Virginia Lingo.
Most positions are flexible with multiple players capable of playing elsewhere, dependent on strategy and game situations.
The 49ers will travel to Winston-Salem for a 7 p.m. Tuesday kick against No. 21 Wake Forest in the first of two exhibition contests. Charlotte, which serves as the host institution for this year’s Conference USA Championships in November, will open the regular season at 7 p.m. Aug. 22 in Greensboro against UNC Greensboro. The home opener will be Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. against Winthrop.