Aug. 26—HIGH POINT — The entire crew is back for the High Point University men’s soccer, putting coach Zach Haines in an enviable position.
With three players taking advantage of an extra year of eligibility granted because of the pandemic, the Panthers return all the key pieces from the squad that won the program’s first Big South tournament championship, lost to Georgetown in the NCAA tournament after gaining a first-round bye and will start the season ranked just inside the top 25 in three preseason polls.
They open the regular season Thursday at Davidson after losing to Duke and tying College of Charleston in a pair of exhibition matches..
MD Myers, last season’s Big South Attacking Player of the Year selection, first-team All-Big South pick Sebastian Chalbaud and Caco Fernandez are back at forward. Mason Marcey, Alex Abril and Aston Perkins return in the midfield. All-conference selection Finn McRobb, Nick Phipps,Alessandro Sobacchi, and Josh DuBost will defend along the back line, and Holden Trent is back as the keeper.
Sobacchi, Phipps and Marcey were the three who decided to use their extra year of eligibility as graduate students.
The Panthers also added a highly regarded recruiting class headlined by former Wesleyan standout David Greene and Georgia Southern transfer Aldair Cortez..
“We will be very similar to what you saw in the spring,” Haines said. “Some of the new guys have come in and done really well as far as competition and being able to give us something off the bench, maybe even start some games. It’s the same cast of characters so things will look similar.”
The Panthers outscored their opponents 38-9 in rolling up a 12-2 mark that included a 8-0 run through the Big South.
Myers led the way with 14 goals and also dished five assists. Chalbaud scored nine goals and registered four assists while Abril provided six of each.
Myers dominated the Panthers’ scoring early, netting eight goals in the first four games before the production became more diverse. Myers and Chalbaud have garnered some preseason All-American accolades.
“The good thing about the team in the spring is as amazing of a season as MD had, so much of it was the production we had around him,” Haines said. “Alex and Sebastian, you look at their goals and assists, any other year, they would have been good enough to be Big South Attacking Player of the Year. And then Caco chips in as a freshman, We have a lot of options. Even if teams key on MD this fall, we have a lot of quality around him.”
The goal for the Panthers this season is not to only win the Big South tournament and return to the NCAA tournament but to also post at least one NCAA win. Haines said the Panthers know what they must do to avoid another one-and-done like the 2-0 playoff loss to Georgetwon in the spring.
“We learned a lot,” Haines said. “We learned you have to get the details right, that you have to be switched on for the whole 90 minutes, that you have to play every play. We played well for long stretches. But, if you make one mistake or switch off for just a little bit, teams like Georgetown will punish you. That’s what happened on the two goals they scored. Other than that, there wasn’t a lot of difference.”
To prepare for a possible NCAA return, Haines scheduled games against Virginia, N.C. State, Maryland and Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers serve as the opponent for the home opener on Sunday.
“It’s not that we look over the Big South, we realize how hard it is to win the conference because we just did it for the first time this past spring,” Haines said. “But, we want to make sure on all fronts that we prepare our team to be battle tested for the postseason.”
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