By the end of the upcoming weekend, Stetson women’s soccer head coach Manoj Khettry should have a pretty good idea about his 2014 squad. The Hatters visit USF, 7 p.m., Friday, in their exhibition opener, then conclude the preseason by hosting Volusia County rival Embry-Riddle, 7 p.m., Sunday at the Athletic Training Center.
“I have been pleased so far with how we’ve performed in practice,” said Khettry. “The players seem like they are beginning to settle into their roles. It’s always good, however, to test yourself against somebody else. I’m excited about that.”
The Hatters return seven starters and 12 letter winners from last season’s team which went 6-10-2 overall and finished fifth in the A-Sun. Stetson also welcomes 14 freshmen to the program. The Hatters were recently picked to finish fourth in the Atlantic Sun Conference preseason form.
Coaches often differ on their philosophies when it comes to how they approach exhibition play. Some see it as an opportunity to get the season started with a few wins (though the results don’t count), while others view it simply as an opportunity to evaluate their team.
Khettry is firmly in the middle of both schools of thought.
“I think result does matter to some extent,” he said. “It goes a long way to establishing confidence throughout the team as we begin the year.
“But a lot of that depends on the psychological make-up of your team. You can play cupcakes and have your team gain some confidence by winning. But having a competitive attitude is what prepares you to play and be successful. Playing against good teams also prepares you for the season. I want my players to experience playing against top level competition so they know what it looks like.”
Khettry also said the exhibition games are not just about a positive result for the team, but about players seizing on opportunities.
“We give kids numerous opportunities, but what they have to understand is that they earn those opportunities on a daily basis in training,” he said. “We tell them, ‘Be great in training’. If you’re great in practice, that should translate into the game. You give a kid a chance and you hope they embrace it.”
With a week of practice under their belts, Khettry says the Hatters are beginning to round into form. The newcomers are adjusting to the pace of college soccer, and the veterans are rounding into form. Khettry heaped praise on one returner in particular.
“Mara Keomanivane has been consistently good since practice began,” he said. “We ran her and a couple of the freshman at forward for a few practices and I liked what I saw. Our center backs are getting better, and a couple of our goalkeepers are getting more comfortable.”
The Hatters open the regular season when they host Minnesota, 7 p.m., Friday, August 22nd at the ATC.