For the first time since 2009, the Coastal Carolina men’s soccer team missed out on the NCAA Tournament in 2018.
Despite playing tough opponents, both in and out of conference, the RPI of the Chants did not make the cut for the NCAA. This year, the team hopes to change that.
“We missed out for the first time in years and we have been relaying that to the players,” said head coach Shaun Docking.
Not only is the non-conference schedule challenging, the Sun Belt is not a conference to be taken lightly.
“It’s going to be a very wide open conference this year,” said Docking, who enters his 22ndseason at the helm. “You have new members Central Arkansas, who were in the NCAA Tournament last year. Last year’s tournament champions Georgia State were in the tournament and then Georgia Southern and Appalachian State have greatly improved. The conference is going to be more wide open than it has ever been.”
The Chanticleers always put together a tough schedule every year and this season is no different. Of the 20 games, both preseason and regular season, that the Chanticleers will play, 10 of those opponents were in the NCAA Tournament last year.
The Chanticleers will take on six Top 25 programs this season, and two of them are ranked in the top 10 (No. 8 Kentucky and No. 10 Duke).
“Our first seven games are incredibly difficult,” Docking said. “This is something we do every year though. You schedule the best opponents that you can. This kind of schedule challenges your guys and makes them ready for postseason."
Last week, the Sun Belt announced preseason honors and named Coastal Carolina as the favorite to win the conference. This was the fourth consecutive time that the Chanticleers were picked to win the Sun Belt.
Senior forward Tsiki Ntsabeleng was named the 2019 Sun Belt Preseason Offensive Player of the Year.
Nstabeleng was last year’s Sun Belt Newcomer of the Year, scoring six goals and tallying six assists as well. The Chanticleers will look to him to find the back of the net, as well as newcomer Claudio Repetto.
Repetto played for the Ocean City Nor’easters in the USL 2, the fourth tier of American soccer, this past summer. He scored eight goals and notched two assists.
“He had another good summer with his PDL team,” Docking said. “This is a different environment than the PDL, so we shall see how he translates his play.”
Another player looking to prove himself on the pitch this season and help his team get back to the NCAA Tournament is none other than St. James’ own Luke Williams.
“We needed to get back to playing together,” the sophomore forward said. “We were really separate before and now we need to focus on being a team.”
Williams played in 10 matches last season and saw preseason action in the Chanticleers’ match against No. 3 UNC at the CCU Soccer Stadium.
Coastal closes the preseason with a trip to Durham to take on Duke on Aug. 23.
The Chants open their 2019 regular season with four games on the road, all against ranked opponents. Coastal travels across the country to begin their campaign versus No. 22 Oregon State on Aug. 30. The Chants then take on No. 20 Portland two days later.
Coastal returns to the East Coast to travel to No. 21 UNC-Charlotte on Sep. 6 before traveling to Morgantown to take on No. 23 West Virginia on Sep. 13.
Coastal finally plays its first home match on Sep. 17 against former Big South foe Campbell, who made it to the NCAA Tournament last year as the Big South Tournament champion.