On the eve of the Hurricanes season opener at Barry (8/27, 7pm), Michael Harris sat down with head men's soccer coach Warren Russ to get his assessment of the preseason and look ahead at the 2009 campaign.
Q: What are your expectations for the 2009 season?
A: We expect to be markedly better than last year. Last season this program started to turn in the right direction and we've strengthened our roster this year. We will be able to compete more favorably inside and outside of the Peach Belt Conference.
Q: How will your new recruits fit into the mix?
A: You will see an immediate impact from the new recruits. Sean Howe, a transfer from South Georgia College, will have an immediate impact playing on the backline. David Porley, our goalkeeper, will add a great deal of experience to our defense. Ross Sellers should provide some goals for us up front. Cuyler Kitts, a midfielder from Atlanta, will see some substantial time. He provides us the ability to hold and maintain the position of the ball, which is important for our system of play. We also have several others that will push for playing time including: Tom Andre in defense and Dominic Davis and Edgardo Gonzalez in midfield.
Q: What has been the major difference between last year's preseason and this year's preseason?
A: First off, we didn't miss any practices because of the rain. Last year we missed about five days worth of practice due to weather. Overall, our standard of play has been better than last year. This is due to higher quality of players and the improvements of our returning guys. I was real pleased with preseason and look forward to this season.
Q: You have 10 homes games this year. What will be the biggest advantage playing at Hurricane Field?
A: The first thing is the improved playing surface. The athletic department has been committed to helping us improve our pitch (field). Playing on a good surface, one that we're familiar with, provides a benefit to our team. Obviously, not having to travel and being able to prepare at home are additional advantages. Certainly playing in front of our fans is an advantage. The support we've gotten from the parents, student body, and community has been fantastic. It was tremendous last year and we hope it will be the same this year. You have people bringing out their couches, barbequing, tailgating and having a great time. It provided a great atmosphere for us.
Q: In your non-conference schedule, the ‘Canes play some very solid Florida schools. How will this benefit your team and overall schedule?
A: We play a very difficult non-conference schedule early on against several schools from the Sunshine State Conference, which is one of the better soccer conferences in the country. This will allow us to get our feet wet right away. We don't have any time to build up. We play competitive matches from opening day ‘til the start of conference play against Francis Marion. The competition is very strong and hopes it will give us experience to have an impact in the Peach Belt.
The Hurricanes start the 2009 campaign on the road Thursday evening against Sunshine State Conference member Barry University. You can listen to the match or follow the live stats online by clicking here, then choosing the appropriate link next to that match on the schedule.
After a Saturday evening match at Nova Southeastern (live stats available, as well), the 'Canes return to Americus for their home opener on September 4th at 3:00 p.m. against Florida Tech.