LEBANON, Tenn. – Nineteenth-ranked Cumberland women’s soccer opens the 2018 schedule Thursday at home against 15th-ranked Tennessee Wesleyan at Lindsey Donnell Stadium-Kirk Field, the first of 11 home matches this season and five straight to begin the year.
The Phoenix posted a 2-0 exhibition victory at Trevecca University last Friday, with Autumn Copeland and Rebecca Holloway each scoring in the second half for CU.
Second-year head coach Brian Davies returns 11 letterwinners and eight starters from last season’s club that won the Mid-South Conference regular season championship and finished 14-5-1 overall, including Holloway, the MSC Player of the Year. She recorded 11 goals and led the Mid-South with 12 assists, ranking 16th nationally in total assists.
The Phoenix also return First Team All-MSC selections Sarah Haddock, Ashley Kambeitz, Mariah Aplin and Savannah Moreland and Second Team honoree Luca Jöns. Cumberland lost in the Mid-South Conference Tournament championship game, missing out on the program’s fifth trip in six years to the NAIA Championship Opening Round.
“We’re very pleased with the new players and transfers and really look for them to give us a boost,” Davies said. “We’re looking for a couple of freshmen to come in and start. I think our depth should be an asset this season. Anyone who comes into the match should help us keep the level of play.”
Cumberland plays Tennessee Wesleyan, SCAD-Savannah, Bryan College, Bethel University and Southeastern University at home in a 16-day stretch to begin the year.
“The home schedule gives us a great chance to get started on the right foot. Playing the No. 15 team in the country, if we can win [Thursday], it sets us up for the rest of the season. We really have something to prove [against Tennessee Wesleyan] after we lost to them last year.
“We’ll be tested early with the five straight home matches. There are no easy ones in there with No. 15 and No. 6 (Southeastern) as well as other teams who are receiving votes or had good seasons last year. We’re always looking to play top caliber teams,” he said.
Tennessee Wesleyan finished 15-5-2 last season, winning the Appalachian Athletic Conference Tournament and then matches in the NAIA Championship Opening Round as well as the Round of 16 at the NAIA Championship final site in Orange Beach, Ala. Bryan Walker takes over for departed Naomi Kolarova, now the head coach at Austin Peay.
TWU returns 10 seniors and 18 upperclassmen from last year’s squad, which defeated the Phoenix, 2-1, in Athens, Tenn., in the season opener for Cumberland despite CU outshooting the Bulldogs, 16-9. Wesleyan goalkeeper McKenna Loges made 12 saves in the match. Cumberland won six straight in the series before last season’s defeat.