To say that the 2018 fall sports season for Coastal Carolina University's sports teams was not ideal would be an understatement.
As Hurricane Florence barreled towards the Carolina coast during the week of Sep. 10, 2018, Coastal’s football, volleyball and men’s and women’s soccer teams were relocated all across the southeast to wait out the storm.
“As an athlete, or people in general, you have to be ready to roll with the punches,” said women’s soccer coach Paul Hogan. “Things like Florence are out of our control. You either can be negative about and complain or you can just roll with it. And I think our kids did a pretty good job of that.”
Prior to the team’s evacuation to Kennesaw, Georgia, where they would beat Arkansas-Little Rock 2-1 on Sep. 14, the Lady Chants had only one win in their season and were riding a four-game losing streak.
With campus still closed for another week, the team travelled to Alabama and was able to win both games on the road, including a double overtime thriller over the five-time defending Sun Belt champions in South Alabama.
The Chants played four games on the road during the “hurrication,” losing their final game of the road trip to Appalachian State.
“I was very proud of our kids,” Hogan said. “It was tough. And there were moments where we had girls crying in their rooms saying that they wanted to go home, but that didn’t last too long. They were able to push forward.”
It was that experience last season that has seniors like defender Gabby Smychynsky motivated to put in the extra effort in training.
“I’m excited for this new season, but I am also feeling sad because it will be my last one,” Smychynsky said. “I’m going all out, 110 percent, every play in practice because this will be my last season here at Coastal. We are all encouraging each other to be better in practice and we are ready to get into this season.”
Despite the 1-4-1 start to the 2018 campaign, the Chanticleers were able to go on a 6-1-0 run before losing back-to-back games in mid-October. Aiming to use that strong run to march their way to a third straight Sun Belt championship game appearance, the team’s hopes were dashed in an early exit of the Sun Belt Tournament. They fell to Georgia State 3-2 in overtime.
“We were disappointed with the way we ended last season,” Smychynsky said. “Knowing that we were able to beat teams like South Alabama on their turf and come up short is motivating us to do better this season. We have a lot of new girls coming in. I personally think that this year is going to be the year.”
The Lady Chanticleers have one of the toughest schedules in the country. The Chants regular season schedule includes three teams that played in the NCAA Tournament last year – Clemson, UNC-Wilmington and Sun Belt foe Arkansas-Little Rock.
“This schedule is a dream schedule for a college soccer player,” junior goalkeeper Rylee Atteberry said. “You come here to play the best. You’re not coming here to be mediocre. Seeing teams like Clemson on the schedule gets you excited.”
Coastal not only has a tough regular season schedule but also a tough preseason schedule. The Chanticleers travel to Charleston to take on the College of Charleston on Aug. 11. While the Lady Chants have a 3-2-2 series lead over the Lady Cougars, both teams have scored 10 goals against each other in their seven previous matchups.
Coastal closes out the preseason with South Carolina, a team that has gone 40-5-2 over the past two seasons, including a 2017 NCAA Women’s College Cup semifinal appearance. Hogan hopes that he can create some new fans for his team when the Lady Gamecocks come to Conway on Aug. 15.
“At the end of the day, you want to expose people to everything,” Hogan said. “I believe a lot of local kids will come out and their parents too and their parents will probably wear their South Carolina stuff because some might be SC fans. But can we turn their heads a bit? Can we make them realize that there’s a local team right down the road to see some great kids who are great role models for this community.”
The Lady Chanticleers finished last season with an overall record of 8-8-1 and a 7-3 mark in conference play. The Chants open their regular season on Aug. 22 at 7 p.m. at the CCU soccer stadium in Conway.