• 63°

CU looking for strides

MURFREESBORO – Building a program from scratch isn’t an easy task.

Many coaches shy away from the type of rebuilding that requires years of commitment, times of struggle and the heartache of losing too many games early in the process.

While Lorick Atkinson has been lauded for his accomplishments with the Chowan University football team, he is not the only coach on the Murfreesboro-based campus that has a major rebuilding effort ahead of him.

Ken Miller signed on as Head Men’s Soccer Coach last year and it undertaking the building of a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II team. His challenge is the lack of success the Hawks have experienced as a D-III institution.

Miller, however, is optimistic about his team’s future after a solid year recruiting.

“We’re still a really young squad and relatively small,” Miller said at Chowan’s annual Fall Sports Media Day. “We had our ups and downs in recruiting, but we’ll add pieces to the puzzle on a yearly basis.”

Miller’s team won once during the 2006 campaign when he was hired in August to replace Rob Battisson who was the Hawks’ skipper for a single season. Battison’s team recorded only two victories.

Battisson replaced Nate Wiley, who went 5-11 in his last season in Murfreesboro when Chowan was D-III.

The Hawks badly need stability and that is an area Miller said he is focused on as he reaches to make strides in multiple areas.

“We’re striving for improvement on the field and off,” he said.

Miller brought players Travis Albea and Josh Cenci with him to the press conference and the two players stressed their desire to see the team become more unified and to play well together.

“There will be more team unity this season,” Cenci said. “Working with the community will make us a lot stronger on and off the field.”

Albea said the Hawks would have a solid 11 players on the field this season, something they missed out on last year. He said that would help them as they moved forward.

“I think it will make an impact across the board, maybe not based on wins and losses, but we’ll make strides,” he asserted. “I felt like last year was a disappointment,” he continued. “We want to change that this year.”

Both Cenci and Albea said the team would be striving to work better together this season.

“I think everyone here is ready to get to work,” Albea said. “We’re putting the effort forth to get better.”

Cenci added, “Even though it’s really early, there is already a more positive atmosphere this season. Everyone knows what is expected of them and most have committed themselves.”

Both players also said they would strive personally to learn more about playing their positions and working together with their teammates to improve.

Cenci, the team’s captain, said his goal for the season was both simple and complex.

“My biggest goal is for us to play the full 90 minutes,” he said. “In a lot of games last season, we were there in the first half, but in the second half, we had a lack of will, a lack of heart. If we play the full 90 minutes, we’ll be more competitive.”

Miller said his goals were established to continue the progress of the program.

“First, we want to continue to provide a professional training and work environment,” Miller said. “That is something that hasn’t been done here from a men’s soccer standpoint.

“Secondly, we want to become more involved in the community,” he said. “We want to help develop soccer in this region.”

Miller said as soccer developed, he hoped to see more local student-athletes who would come to Chowan to play or at the very least go to college to participate in the sport.

“We want to build team unity,” Miller stressed. “I believe that can be the difference in winning a game or two.

“If we’re a stronger unit, we’re more apt to do that,” he added.

Miller said he felt the Hawks should strive to win at least six matches this season, despite the fact the schedule was full of tough opponents.

“We want to build an identity from a men’s soccer standpoint,” he said. “Other programs have that identity because they have excelled. Our goal is to excel in soccer.”

Miller said recruiting was a learning experience as he had grown up in Florida and played and coached in Tennessee. Those experiences did little to help as he learned the terrain of northeastern North Carolina and south side Virginia.

“Hindsight is 20-20,” he said. “If I could do it again, there are things I would do differently. It’s part of the learning process for a young coach.”

One area the Hawks feel will be strong for them is playing in Murfreesboro.

“It’s very important to be at home,” Miller said. “Last season I inherited a schedule with only five home games. We were able to add one, but still played at home only six times all year.

“Playing at home is important in helping the program grow,” he continued. “We have to be here for the community to see our improvement.”

Chowan will be at home 10 times this season.

The Hawks open up the 2007 season on Friday, August 24 at Warren-Wilson College. Their first home match will be September 1 against Coker College.

Three exhibitions are planned in the next week, however. There will be a royal and white game today (Thursday) at 6 p.m. while USC Salkehatchie will visit Saturday at 4 p.m. and Averett will be on hand at 4 p.m. August 22.