3-0 exhibition win over WCU sets tone for women’s soccer

Cairney still unsure of full-time starter at goalkeeper heading into regular season


Brandon Sans, Assistant Sports Editor

When UNC Wilmington kicked off its lone preseason game with a 3-0 win against Western Carolina, it did so with eight of its starters being of redshirt sophomore status or lower. It was the perfect lineup to kick off a season with many fresh faces.

Two Seahawk goals were courtesy of redshirt sophomore Kristen Bootes and redshirt freshman Lauren Ellis. Bootes, with eleven career appearances and just one start to her name, is a testament to all the new faces UNCW will introduce this year.

“Training has been a little bit slower in terms of the learning curve,” said UNCW coach Paul Cairney. “They’re getting up to speed fairly quickly. I think tonight was a great opportunity for them to finally play against someone else instead of their own team in practice.”

Two faces with whom fans were already familiar with were redshirt freshman Nikki Cox and senior Serenity Waters. Cox made a name for herself last year with six goals in four games before going down with a season-ending injury. Now that she’s healthy, she hopes to pick up where she left off in UNCW’s offensive attack.

Having Waters around for her senior season will provide a boost to the underclassmen. She’s played over 3,000 minutes at UNCW and was a Second-Team All-Colonial Athletic Association selection a year ago. Waters scored an unassisted goal in the exhibition, something UNCW will rely on as the season unfolds.

“We’re trying to get everyone into the flow of everything. We have a lot of young players,” she said. “I’m open if they ever have any questions to ask. We know they’re super young.”

After graduating senior goalkeepers Carolyn Huddy and Liisa Rahkola, Cairney brought in three new keepers in freshmen Cassidy Boyes, Sydney Schneider and junior transfer Caitie Broderick.

Schneider got the start in the exhibition and made a strong case to claim the starting job early with a 1-on-1 save against WCU midfielder Kasey Cooke. All three keepers played a period, but things remain competitive between the three.

“If you could combine them all into one, it’d be great. They bring different things,” said Cairney. “It’s going to be interesting who our starting goalkeeper is going to be. I don’t really know.”

With a few questions to answer, the 2017 women’s soccer season looks to be a test of patience that comes with a new-look team full of eager, young players. Player progression may take priority over wins and losses, but that may be alright for a core that will be around beyond this season.

The Seahawks will open the regular season Friday, Aug. 18 at home vs. Virginia. UNCW last faced the Cavaliers in the 2015 NCAA Tournament, falling to Virginia in the second round, 2-0.

Assistant Sports Editor Brandon Sans can be found on Twitter @Bsans10. Any tips or suggestions should be forwarded via email to [email protected].