HPU women set sights on another successful season

Aug. 21, 2013 @ 10:25 PM

Looking at everything the High Point University women’s soccer team accomplished last season — winning 10 games, including eight in the conference, and the Big South Conference regular season — it’s simple to see it was a success.

But, after their stellar year ended in disappointment in the semifinals of the Big South Conference tournament, the Panthers hardly felt that way. They set their goals high, positioned themselves to achieve one of their highest, and missed.

“It was complete devastation,” head coach Marty Beall recalled, speaking Wednesday in his Steele Center office. “Thinking back, we focused everything on that championship, that weekend. And it almost took away the great year we had.

“So, we were extremely disappointed to lose to a good Winthrop team on that day. But we still had one of our best years in program history — but nobody talks about that. Everyone talks about that we didn’t win the championship.”

So, while many aspects of the program remain the same this year, High Point looked at their approach and tweaked it in preparing for this season, which starts Friday at Virginia Tech. The Panthers, who were voted second in the preseason conference poll, will play their first home game Sept. 1 vs. Georgia Southern at 2 p.m. 

“In January, when we got the team together after winter break, we talked about: What is our identity? Who are we? That type of mindset,” said Beall, entering his fifth season. “We had a good hour-and-a-half, two-hour conversation, with dozens of players giving feedback, and hashed things out on where we need to go.”

HPU (10-6-6 overall, 8-1-2 Big South last year) returns four of their five top goal-scorers, including senior midfielder Becca Hemby (11 goals last season, first team all-conference), junior forward Jacky Kessler (six goals, eight assists) and senior midfielder Taylor Parker (four goals, eight assists, first team all-conference).

Seniors Kelli Joline, Sammy Vercellino, Brooke Lisson and Jesse May, junior Alise LeCompte and newcomers Kai-Lin Hernandez and Jenny Marshall also look to be key contributors, as the Panthers, who last won the Big South tournament in 2010, look to capitalize on their size, quickness and skill with the ball in controlling and attacking.

Their expectations remain high — to compete for Big South championships and reach the NCAA tournament. And, with eight starters and all five all-conference selections returning, they are realistic. But now their approach is centered on the process of working hard and improving every day as the season progresses.

“I think the team’s getting better each day in training,” said Beall, the conference coach of the year last year who also sits two wins shy of tying the all-time High Point record for career wins. “I think we have outstanding leadership — not just from one player, but from a group of players.  So, that’s extremely beneficial. 

“And we have a much different mindset than we have since I’ve been here. Their determination and focus in training is at a completely different level than what we’ve experienced before. … 

“We see the focus of the players — even the young players have that determination. Our team word, which the players voted on, is: resilient. That’s something the girls have taken very seriously. And that’s what I think has spearheaded the way to kickoff this season.”