The College of Southern Maryland Hawks women's soccer team opens their 2019 season on Friday, August 30 at 1 p.m. when they take on the Union County College Owls in La Plata. This will be Nina Duron's second season as head coach of the women's soccer team.
Sophomore Karleigh Cohen is back for the Hawks, and Duron is looking for her to have another productive season after she accounted for six of CSM's 16 goals last year.
"I expect more from her," Duron said. "This year, she definitely has a stronger support system than she did last year."
Part of that support system will be CSM's midfield, which Duron anticipates being a particular area of strength on this team. "I'm really looking forward to seeing it in action," Duron said.
There is also more experience on this team compared to last year's, as there was only one sophomore on the 2018 roster.
"We definitely have a lot more sophomores this year than freshman," Duron said. "I think it will still offer a good balance. We have some coming in that have already played a year in the past or somewhere else. With the way the program is going and recruiting is going, it'll shake out pretty good."
Cohen will be joined by fellow returnee Semiya Lowe and transfer Lila Biggar as captains of this year's squad. Biggar, a graduate of Patuxent High School, redshirted last year at Brewton-Parker College in Georgia.
CSM opened the 2018 season with a 6-0 win at Patrick Henry College, then went 2-3 in the month of September. However, they endured a rough ending to the season as they lost their last four games by a combined score of 44-0. The Hawks finished eighth in the MD JUCO and Region XX standings.
Duron could not be more ready to erase those memories and start the 2019 season on a positive note.
"Definitely looking forward to not having the results of how we ended last year," Duron said. "It's very unfortunate that we ended with very low numbers. It kind of just killed morale. We've taken steps to really change the culture of the program and do some more team bonding, really get these girls meshed in together so they can play hard and not give up."
Duron said a big factor in determining whether this team will be successful or not is "their self-motivation. That was a big struggle for us last year. Mentally, when we had tough challenges, we seemed to break down. So being able to overcome those kinds of challenges as a team and work through them, that'll make a huge impact on our game."
To do that, Duron said, "One thing I've been pretty repetitive with them is ask them 'What's the best play?', and some of them knew it from last year, it's 'The next play.' So we're always being prepared, we know what's going to happen next."
Even if she doesn't know what's going to happen this season in the win-loss column, there is one thing Duron expects to consistently see from her players: "Their commitment. They are now young adults, so being responsible, taking care of their bodies, committed to the team, attending practices, and making sure that not only are they making soccer the priority, but we're also working together to keep our academics up."
With a revamped roster and an unblemished schedule to work with, Duron says there are "definitely positive thoughts and feelings about how the season's going to go."