Photo by Brent Beerends / MT Athletics
With signing day in the past, the Middle Tennessee soccer team is ready to begin preparations for the upcoming 2017 season.
Head coach Aston Rhoden filled every position, signing four forwards, two midfielders, two defenders and a goalkeeper to his team. With the National Letters of Intent signed, Rhoden is finally able to focus his attention to the new year, knowing that these players are finally fully committed.
“It was certainly a year, two years worth of work because we recruit these kids a year and a half to two years before they come here,” Rhoden said. “It was kind of good to finally have them signed.”
While they signed players from each position, Rhoden’s goal wasn’t to fill a certain position, but to build depth to his current team.
“Every recruiting class, you look for something that is going to either enhance your program or complement what you already had,” Rhoden said. “We felt we needed some depth in every position because we’re very young. We still have players that are learning, so we felt like we needed some more players that would be able to compete with the 2016 class and some players who had certain characteristics that we think that group needed.”
Coach Rhoden has high expectations for his new players, as he hopes all of them can make an impact the moment they put on the Blue Raider uniform.
“It’s hard to really single out any one individual,” Rhoden said. “I have a tremendous amount of confidence in every one of them, and I hope every one of them come in and have the impact I expect them to have.”
A year after they used both Sydney Chalcraft and Celeste Barnard in the goal, the staff signed Eda Singer from Illinois to give them four total keepers on the roster. Even though she will be the youngest of the group, Rhoden fully expects to have a heated competition for the starting spot when practice begins.
“There’s definitely going to be a battle…We’ve never had four [keepers] before,” Rhoden said. “Last season with Celeste, Maddy [Kim] and Sydney, they were three keepers that had minimal experience at the collegiate levels. That certainly played a factor in close games for us…I think [Singer] will be a great addition to that unit.”
The team didn’t finish as they hoped in 2016, only going 4-12-1. That record was deceiving however, as they started primarily freshmen and sophomores in every game.
“We had so many young players that played so many minutes,” Rhoden said. “You just have to look at the starting lineup and see a player like Sydney Chalcraft, who played a lot of minutes as a goalkeeper as a freshman , Amber Hoot played in every game as a freshman and Casey Riemer played in almost every game as a freshman. You have a lot of young players.”
As young as they were, Rhoden believes that his new class will challenge the current players and put them under pressure to be better.
“That’s a big part of the way we designed the recruiting class for 2017, we wanted to put those young players under significantly more competitive pressure,” Rhoden said. “We went out and got a lot of young players we feel are just as good, if not better than [the current players] are.”
Overall, the team’s success will depend largely on how well the new players will mesh with the players from the 2016 team.
“I hope they mix well because like I said before, when we recruit, we look at complementary roles,” Rhoden said. “You’ve got players like Maddie Schricker and Alex Palmer; both of them are strong players. We didn’t have that last year so that’s a role that those kids can come in and play for us.”
“You look at Leslie Frye and Tionna Thompson who are both defensive players that are new coming in that are strong at center back position, but are also strong at outside back. We didn’t have that depth last year…that’s what this new group is going to do. It’s going to complement what we have.”
The team will begin practice later in the spring and will start the 2017 season near the end of the summer before classes return in the fall.
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