The Wolfpacker

September 2017

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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62 ■ THE WOLFPACKER BY MATT CARTER A year ago, women's soccer coach Tim Santoro knew that a group of freshmen would sig- nificantly upgrade the talent on his roster to the point he had a team that was ready to compete in the ACC. Since arriving at NCSU prior to the 2013 campaign, the 2016 season was al- ways the one Santoro was pointing toward. But even Santoro admits that he prob- ably was not expecting a Sweet 16 run in the NCAA Tournament. "I thought that we were a NCAA Tour- nament team," he explained. "… Probably surpassed a little bit of what we thought we could do last year. However, I knew the talent was there for a team that could potentially do that, just maybe [it was] a little early." Ironically, it was during a four-game los- ing streak in October when NCSU lost to four opponents all ranked in the top 20 — three of them in the top 10 — that Santoro knew his team turned the corner. "I told the team, 'We're good,'" Santoro recalled. "Already this year they are start- ing to carry over some things they learned from last season." Last year's team had a long list of accom- plishments. Its 11-9-2 overall record and 4-5-1 mark in the ultra-competitive ACC were the program's most wins in 21 years and second-best conference record of all time. The Pack ended a 20-year NCAA Tourna- ment drought and advanced to the third round for just the fourth time in school history. With only two seniors on last year's team, expectations are considerably higher now. However, after conversations with last year's NCAA Tournament selection com- mittee, Santoro also knows that the Pack was close to not being in the field. He is confident that his current team is not rest- ing on last year's laurels. "They could have kept us out of the tour- nament if they wanted to," Santoro said. "It was a fine line. As good as the end of last season was, when you look back on it they know there are a lot of moments where we cut it close. "They understand that every game could be that game that could take it the other way." That said, the lineup is deep and talented. Junior Sydney Wooten, who recorded a 1.08 goals-against average, is back for her third year in the net and has a talented group of defenders in front of her. Senior Cailyn Boch is a four-year starter, and juniors Hannah Keogh and Ella Bonner are three-year starters. Sophomore Krissi Schuster made the All-Southeast Region Team as a rookie, was ranked the eighth- best freshman in the country by TopDraw- and was second on the team with five assists. In addition, German fresh- man Lulu Guttenberger is threatening to break into the lineup. Wooten and the veteran defenders com- bined to lower the team's goals-against average to a five-year low in 2016. The midfield features sophomore Ricci Walkling, who had three goals and a team- best six assists last year and made TopSoc-'s list of top 100 freshmen ■ PREVIEW WOMEN'S SOCCER Fifth-year senior Jackie Stengel returns after playing only eight games before suffering an injury a year ago. She had five goals to getting hurt and has tallied 19 in her career. PHOTO COURTESY NC STATE MEDIA RELATIONS BREWING EXCITEMENT A Year After A Sweet 16 Run With A Young Roster, The Wolfpack Aims To Take The Next Step ■ Key Games • No. 11 Virginia, Sept. 15: NC State has no warm- up for ACC play. Four of its first five games are against league foes that were ranked in the preseason poll, with the Cavs opening the conference slate in Raleigh. • At No. 12 Duke, Oct. 5: Last year, NC State played UNC on the road and pulled off a 1-0 upset win over the Heels. Chapel Hill is not on the schedule this fall, but a trip to Duke presents another chance for a Tobacco Road win. • Louisville, Oct. 26: Senior nights are always emo - tional, and the Pack will have to say goodbye to sev- eral key cornerstone contributors in the program turn- around, notably midfielder Cailyn Boch and forward Jackie Stengel.

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