In the fall of 2012, the University of West Alabama assembled the first men's soccer team in school history. The Tigers shocked everyone by finishing 12-6 and earning the two seed in the Gulf South Conference tournament, now the boys are back and ready for an encore. They are no longer the new kids on the block, and the GSC has taken notice.
"The one disadvantage to us is we're no longer gonna be a surprise because everyone's going to be expecting," says head coach Matthew Thorne. "We've got a lot of quality in our team. We got 14 returners. We got 11 payers coming in. So we got a lot of consistency coming back, and we also have a lot of quality coming in."
The players say having new faces means new competition, creating a new intensity during the off-season.
"Firstly, I'd probably say the fight and the hunger in this team is one hundred percent more than last year," says sophomore defender Alex Brown. "Competition for places is really high now, so hopefully we're going to push on and be even better than last year. "
Brown, forward Clay Green and midfielder Thibault Charmey were selected to the preseason All-Gulf South Conference team. Green lead the tigers in scoring last season with nine goals. Charmey finished second with six. All three are sophomores.
"I think we're a much closer team as far as hanging around each other. We were all new last year so we didn't really take time to talk to each other.... just help each other around campus and stuff," says Green. "But this year, I feel like we have to come together in order to get a championship."
Although the season hasn't begun the tigers are already turning heads. Green and Charmey played semi-pro soccer for the Chattanooga Football Club in the National Premiere Soccer League over the Summer. The NPSL voted Charmey one of the eleven best player in America.
When the team gathered for preseason competition, the Tigers faced defending NAIA national champion Belhaven University of Jackon, MS. UWA defeated the blazers 4-1. "
"Probably one of our biggest achievements so far, especially being [the] first game of the preseason," says Brown. "We showed what we're about, and teams know what to expect now. Maybe a little surprised, but we knew we could beat them. If we play our game, we can beat anyone."
"We had a very strong preseason," says coach Thorne. "But at the end of the day, it's about getting ready for the home opener against Mississippi College on Friday."