Queens University of Charlotte’s women’s soccer team heads into the 2014 season coming off one of its most successful seasons since Katie Talbert took over as head coach eight years ago.
Last year is old news to Talbert, however, who wants the Royals looking forward, not back.
“We want to put last year behind us,” Talbert said. “We had the best year we’ve had since I’ve been at Queens, we were ranked regionally in the top 10 and we had our first national ranking ever at the beginning of the season.
“We’re coming off a very strong year, and we’ve got a lot of players returning from that.”
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Queens went 10-6-3 last season, its third 10-win season under Talbert, and 5-4-2 in its first season in the South Atlantic Conference, finishing sixth in the standings behind Lenoir-Rhyne, Wingate, Tusculum, Catawba and Lincoln Memorial.
The Royals lost just one senior starter from that team: forward Brooke Foil, an all-conference and all-region selection who had five goals and tied for the team lead with six assists.
Queens returns three all-conference players, including its two leading scorers: sophomore midfielder Caitlyn Rodrigues, last year’s SAC Freshman of the Year and a first-team All-SAC pick, sophomore forward Kelli Gottry, a second-team All-SAC pick who led the Royals in goals with nine, and sophomore defender Ashley Osiecki, a second-team All-SAC pick who had three goals and six assists last year.
“Last year, we had so many freshman who came in who had an impact,” Talbert said. “They had some success both as a team and individually, but they used that year to learn our system and how we play.
“The chemistry on our team is at an all-time high right now.”
Still, the Royals will field a relatively young team this season, with only six seniors and five juniors, and the bulk of the roster composed of sophomores (12) and freshmen (12).
“We have an excellent group of seniors,” Talbert said. “They’re showing the freshmen how we do things, on the field and off the field.
“There’s not one glaring area we need to work on, we just need experience as a unit. We have so many incoming players who will play for us, so our weakness is that we haven’t had enough time as a group to get everybody jelled and on the same page.”
Queens also has two new assistant coaches helping Talbert: Luke Duffy, who was an assistant at Lenoir-Rhyne the past two seasons, and Mary Dorn, a four-time All-Conference Carolinas player with Lees-McRae from 2009-2012.
“It’s created so much excitement with the girls,” Talbert said. “They’ve been working extremely hard this summer to prepare because we have such a short preseason. They’ve been putting in the work to make sure we’re ready.”
The Royals could find themselves in the hunt for the SAC title this season, according to Talbert, if the underclassmen can build on the experience they gained last season.
“It’s going to be an exciting and challenging year,” Talbert said. “The conference removed the scholarship cap last year, so this is the first recruiting class where you’re going to see a wide range of players. The top third and the bottom third are going to be that much wider apart.
“Wingate will be a top team, and so will Catawba and Lenoir-Rhyne. After those three, it’s going to be very close.”