The preseason and beginning of the season is every coach’s favorite part of the year in college soccer. Most teams are in good health, optimism is high, and each program thinks they have a chance to win it all.
While defending champion North Carolina certainly enters this season with a target on its back, there is no question the Tar Heels have the talent to back it up. And with no youth World Cups in their way, they enter the season as one of the favorites to win the national title this December in Cary, N.C.
Who else has a chance? Here’s a look at 10 contenders.
Duke: When examining the Blue Devils, the team’s strength is easy to see – they should have little trouble scoring a lot of goals this season. Top scorers Laura Weinberg and Kim DeCesare are both back after scoring 16 goals each last year, while midfielder Cassie Pecht’s 15 assists also return. Toss in a healthy and rested Kelly Cobb, who missed time last year at the U20 World Cup, and it’s a fearsome offense with a lot of depth. Of course, they did lose some faces at the back, including goalkeeper Tara Campbell, but with defenders Natasha Anasi and Mollie Pathman among the returners, the foundation is there to keep enough goals out as well.
Florida State: A College Cup semifinalist in 2012, there’s plenty of reason to believe that the Seminoles can find a way to finish the job this time. One of the questions FSU must answer first however, is where the goals come from, as striker Tiffany McCarty graduated, leaving a large void up front. As long as they can sort out their offense, the Seminoles return three out of five starters from their defensive core that was one of the best in the nation. Center backs Kristin Grubka and Kassey Kallman are prepared to be deployed in front of Kelsey Wys, one of the nation’s top goalkeepers.