BRISTOL, Tenn. – Coming off a season in which the King Women's Soccer finished fifth in the Conference Carolinas with a record of 7-4-1, the Lady Tornado are set to begin their 2012 season Thursday at Young Harris. King won four of their last six matches in 2011 to finish with an overall record of 8-8-1 and advance to the conference postseason tournament in its first year as a member.
The Lady Tornado have high hopes for being a factor in the Conference Carolinas this season after their successful campaign last year. Head Coach Simon Duffy stated, "We finished off really well, so we have big expectations. We have a lot of returners coming back who are fitter, stronger, and faster than they were last year. We're honestly looking to push for a conference championship this year."
In the Conference Carolinas Preseason Coaches' Poll, the Lady Tornado were selected to finish seventh this season which has been a source of motivation for the squad. Duffy said, "Being ranked seventh after finishing fifth [last year], I love it. The fact that we think and feel we can finish with a conference championship with the strength of the squad we have just adds fuel to the fire for us."
Even though Morgan Shelton, who scored a team-high 14 goals last season, has graduated, the Lady Tornado still have several key attackers returning for this season including senior forward Devon Shanklin and junior midfielder Jamie Grigsby, who combined to score nine goals last season.
"Replacing Morgan Shelton is going to be very tough," said Duffy. "But I'm expecting a lot of big things from Shanklin and Grigsby this year."
King has most of their defensive players returning this year as well, including seniors Casey Finnell and Lauren Kist, junior Kelsey Plummer, and co-captains Heidi Steger and Abbey Kitts. While in net last season, Kitts was a main part of their late-season success that included a 4-1-1 run in their last six games, including three shutouts pitched. Both Steger and Kitts earned All-Conference Second Team honors last year.
"We have the majority of our squad coming back defensively," explained Duffy. "Defensively as a unit, I think we are really solid."
Many newcomers will also be an integral part for the Lady Tornado. "We have some really good new players coming in," said Duffy. "I really feel that we have good depth and speed. If and when we need to make a change, we have speed coming in, which is something we really didn't have last year."
Among those new headline players to watch out for include freshman midfielder/forward Kara Montgomery (Glade Spring, Va.) and junior transfer Bekah Ramstack (Wichita, Kan./Hutchinson CC). Montgomery's speed and knack for finding the ball may make her one of the most viable options to replace Shelton's production from last season while Ramstack has been heralded for her defensive play on the back line, thus far this preseason.
King has two non-conference matches to start the season against Young Harris and Brevard before their first conference match against Converse on Sept. 8.
Duffy said, "It's going to be two tough fixtures before we get into the conference. So, it's going to be a good test for us."
The Lady Tornado are looking forward to starting the season Thursday at Young Harris. Kitts said, "I'm excited to start my last year here, have our team bond and enjoy the season."
Kick-off time on Thursday, Aug. 30, in Young Harris, Ga. is set for 4:00 p.m.
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