/New faces, coaches look to lead Troy soccer in ’17

New faces, coaches look to lead Troy soccer in ’17

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Wesley Kirchharr

Staff Writer

With a young roster, the Troy soccer team has a new look on and off the field as it gears up for the 2017 campaign.

Troy finished with a 7-10-3 overall record and a 3-5-2 record in the Sun Belt after a 2016 season that featured a top-heavy roster of 12 true freshmen. This year, the Trojans boast a more experienced roster led by first-year Head Coach Ged O’Connor and Associate Head Coach Joe Connon.

O’Connor joins the Trojans from Saint Leo University, where he spent 11 seasons. He led the Lions to its best record in program history along with seven postseason tournament appearances.

Both O’Connor and Connon aim to push the program to new heights.

“We want each player to do the work that they expect from the person next to them,” O’Connor said in an interview with Troy Athletics. “We have set high standards that all of our players know we expect them to achieve.”

On the pitch, the spotlight is on senior Haley Roberson, a recent selection to the 2017 Preseason All-Sun Belt Team. Roberson, a former Auburn Tiger, was selected to the second team in both 2015 and 2016 after starting in every game she has played with the Trojans.

Roberson is expected to play an even bigger role in the upcoming year after leading the team in assists in 2016. Roberson logged a career high with 1,597 minutes on the field last season and expects to use her fast, physical style of play to make use of each possession in the coming year.

“For me, I’ve been playing for five years now in college, so I definitely know what my strengths are, and I use that towards my ability,” Roberson said. “When I’m on the field, I try to push the ball by the player that I’m going against to test them to see if they can outrun me. Usually, I think I come out pretty successful with that.”

Roberson is glad to see the team back on the field and incorporating the new faces into the rotation.

“It’s definitely great to see everything come together and having everyone play together,” Roberson said.

Troy welcomes eight freshmen to the lineup this season, a class that O’Connor called “fast, powerful and athletic.”

Coaches and players alike are excited to see what this next wave of talent can bring for a Trojan team looking to rise to the top of a heavyweight conference.

“My class as a whole can bring a new, positive energy and an excitement for the game,” freshman Maria Kaschalk said. “We’re all pretty technical, and I think that, combined with some athleticism, helps us bring a new level of play.”

The Trojans are expected to finish the season fifth in conference play per the Sun Belt Preseason Poll, ranked behind in-state rival South Alabama who holds the top spot and three consecutive Sun Belt titles. Coastal Carolina, Little Rock, Appalachian State and Troy round out a competitive top five.

Troy opens the 2017 campaign Friday, playing host to Mercer at 4 p.m. This kicks off a tough non-conference schedule for the Trojans, highlighted by match-ups with seventh-ranked Florida, Alabama and 15th-ranked Florida State.