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New coach happy with camaraderie

MURFREEBORO – The roster is thin, but it has talent, leadership and a high soccer IQ.

Jodi Clugston enters her first season at the helm of the Chowan University women’s soccer program with only 14 players, but with an optimism that is permeating the program.

“The fall season has gone well,” Clugston said during an interview at Chowan’s Fall Sports Media Day Thursday. “We came in ready to go, hit the field running and haven’t stopped. We’ve gotten better at each practice and I’m very pleased with the team camaraderie on and off the field.”

Part of that team bonding came in the form of spending time watching soccer in the 2008 Olympics. The team came together to watch the games and, according to senior leaders Katelyn Mahoney and Jacqueline Ferns, it was a good experience.

“Being able to come together as a team and watch a team that good has been a good experience,” Mahoney said. “We can see what they do and try to mimic it when we’re on the field. It was a good experience to have at the beginning of the season.”

The early season has been a tough one for the team because they have endured two or three practices daily, but that has helped maintain fitness levels.

Clugston gave her team a summer workout packet to help build strength and fitness and it has worked.

“It looks like most people kept up with the summer workout packets,” Mahoney said. “Being in shape and building our fitness will help us.”

Ferns added, “We’ve been working hard, two or three practices a day, and they have been divided into playing and fitness. I think that has allowed us to concentrate on one area in that practice instead of trying to do everything at once.”

As the Hawks focus on the upcoming season, it will be a new experience for Clugston who is entering her first season as a head coach.

“I’ll be a little nervous because it will be my first game as a head coach,” she said. “It won’t have anything to do with my team because I know what they are capable of, just a general nervousness. I think it will be better after the first game.”

Ferns and Mahoney are each entering their senior season at Chowan and that each said that brings both nervousness and excitement.

“I’m excited and a little nervous, but mostly excited,” Ferns said. “I can’t wait to see all the hard work we’ve put in pay off.”

Mahoney said it was important for her that the team start well.

“I’m nervous and excited because I want us to go out strong in the first game,” she said. “I’m looking forward to us getting better each game and building off what we learn.”

While looking for wins this season, Clugston said there is a more important way to define success.

“I believe a successful season will be one where we improve as a team each game,” she said. “It’s not based on wins and losses as much as how we did as a team. If we play as individuals, that will not be successful. Granted, though, we want to win.”

Mahoney defined success as simply being able to compete.

“Some people don’t like soccer or lose interest because it is a low-scoring game,” she said. “You can go 90 minutes and have no score. Success is being able to be out there and competing for those 90 minutes.”

Ferns said she wanted to see the team always compete.

“We have a low number,” she said. “Success is being able to push through. It’s a long schedule and we need to battle in every game to be successful.”

In addition to the two seniors, Chowan will return scoring threats Ashley Bradford, Meredith McCarthy and Clara Danzeisen (all junior midfielders). They also have junior defender Erin Jackson and goal keeper Kristy Brown back as returning starters.

They will open the season at Warren-Wilson College on Saturday before traveling to Carson-Newman on Sunday.

The home opener is slated for 2 p.m. Wednesday, September 3 against Mount Olive. The schedule also includes home dates with Catawba College (Sept. 17), Concord College (Sept. 19), USC-Aiken (Sept. 20), Lenoir-Rhyne College (Sept. 27), Barton College (Oct. 10) and Tusculum College (Oct. 12).