MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The excitement has been building during the preseason for the Huntingdon men's soccer team.
With experience and depth returning for the first time in several seasons and a strong bond developing on the team, the Hawks have high expectations for this season.
"We feel great. We've had a great preseason and we've grown together as a team," junior Chris Blight said. "This is probably the closest team we've had. Everyone came in fit and practices have been intense. We've had a lot of guys fighting for positions. We're all ready to get the season started."
The season starts this weekend in Emory, Va. The Hawks play Emory & Henry College on Saturday at 7 p.m. Huntingdon will play Ferrum College on Sunday at noon.
"There is an excitement about the first weekend of the season," senior Louis Hines said. "It doesn't matter if we're playing at home or in Virginia, we're going to be excited. We're all anxious to just play and see what we can do."
That's something head coach Kevin Ray is glad to hear. Ray feels good about this team. Coming off a 3-14-1 season, he is encouraged by what he is seeing out of this group.
"This is by far the most enjoyable team I've had the pleasure of working with," Ray said. "There are similarities between this team and the 2007 team, which was one of the most successful in the school's Division III history.
"The players are excited and ready to play. I feel like this team has the potential to have one of the most successful seasons we've had."
Ray said when mapping out the team's goals with his players, the Hawks didn't aim for a specific amount of wins. Instead, the team wants to have a certain attitude every game.
"In an ideal world, sure, at the end of the season we'd like to be playing in the conference tournament as the regular season champions," Ray said. "But we're not looking at trying to win X-number of games or trying to win the conference right now. We can't do that if we don't take care of the game directly in front of us.
"What we want is to be able to compete and play hard in every game. If we can do that, we're going to get more wins than losses."
Hines echoed his coach. He said the players want to win more games, but to accomplish that goal the team's attitude and effort have to be just right.
"So far, the attitude has been really consistent and the effort has been great," Hines said. "One of our goals needs to be to maintain that effort and that drive for the entire season."