HARTSVILLE, S.C. – The 2014 Coker men's soccer team is gearing up for its second season in the South Atlantic Conference, but a few things have changed since its 2013 debut in the conference. The most notable change is first-year head coach Chris Williams, who joins the team after spending the last two seasons as the assistant at Northwestern Ohio.
"I am excited to finally get the preseason underway," said Williams. "I know what Coker expects from its men's soccer team and I want to continue that success."
The Cobras closed 2013 with a 5-1-1 record over its last seven games. The solid finish propelled them to a No. 6 ranking in the 2014 SAC preseason poll. Carson-Newman and Wingate are the early favorites to take home the SAC title.
"I definitely have a lot of respect for the teams in the SAC," said Williams. "The conference is easily, to me, one of the top-three in the nation. Any team can beat the other on any given night, so the preseason rankings mean nothing at the end of the day."
The Cobras graduated eight seniors from a season ago, including midfielder Stephen Scrivens, defenders Akeem Prendes and Atticus Lum, and All-SAC forward Daniel Jackson, who was drafted by Real Salt Lake of Major League Soccer.
Even with all the losses the Navy and Yellow returns 21 players and includes 14 new players to make up the 35-man team for 2014.
The preseason first team All-SAC duo of senior midfielder Tony Quiroz and senior defender Fernando Bedoya key the returners for Coker. 2013 All-SAC honorable mention selection Jordan Snell also returners for the Navy and Yellow.
"The players we have returning are outstanding," said Williams. "I expect Ferny, Tony and Jordan to be senior leaders, but I am really looking forward to seeing how the sophomores perform. The sophomores have had a year to really get their feet wet and I expect them all to contribute more whether it be on the pitch during games or in practice making teammates better each day."
Of the 14 newcomers, Rohan Francis will be asked to provide experience and knowledge to the team.
"Rohan played an substantial amount of time at the Division I level last year," said Williams. "I am expecting him to pass that knowledge along to the entire program and help us build towards our goal."
Williams' expectations are simple for the Cobras this year.
"We have a set of core values we follow on our team," said Williams. "Those values are honesty, hard work, commitment and courage. If the team buys into these core values and we continue to improve each day, then I have no doubt that the end result will be a championship caliber team."
The Navy and Yellow opens its season at home on Thursday, Sept. 4 against Emmanuel College at 7:00 p.m.