JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. - Although not as flashy in the statistical categories, defense such as sophomore Jente Kuper have helped sustain the reputation that the Eagles' defensive third is among the stingiest in the South Atlantic Conference.
C-N's 19 goals allowed last season was tied for second fewest in the SAC. In 2017, the team only allowed 12 goals.
Kuper (Otterberg, Germany) earned preseason All-Conference First-Team accolades for her play as a freshman. She logged 1655 minutes over 19 contests including 16 starts as a first-year talent. She scored a lone goal last year in a 2-0 victory over Anderson, adding two assists on the campaign as well.
She is joined by junior transfer Lira Mathes (Knoxville, Tenn.) who head coach Simon Duffy described as a "tremendously important player." Mathes previously played for Martin Methodist College, where she was voted to the Southern States Athletic Conference First-Team in back-to-back years for the RedHawks.
Returning players Sydney Bailey (Knoxville, Tenn.), Emma Daniels (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Lainee Griffin (Knoxville, Tenn.) will all help fortify the back third of the field, with a pair of Swedes in Beatrice Gards (Stockholm, Sweden) and Natalie Ledin (Stockholm, Sweden) also looking to register important minutes for the squad.
"We've got a really good mix," Duffy said. "Just happy that we have that core group in the back that will bolster our defense and hopefully stop a lot of shots, block a lot of shots. But if they do get through we have three fantastic keepers to help out with that."
Goalies Jasmine Rizk (Andersonville, Tenn.) and Shannon Hellina (Hertfordshire, England) will be called upon to be the leaders in the net. Jackie Burns (Cookstown, Northern Ireland) is also slated to return.
Rizk started four games for C-N last season, recording 14 saves on 43 shots, allowing six goals overall while Hellina most recently spent time with the Arsenal F.C. female academy team.
A major key of emphasis for the Eagles defense is maintaining a high level of intensity while not making mistakes in a pivotal moment. So far in training for the upcoming season, coach Duffy has seen loads of potential.
"It's having that trust, belief and confidence in our players that they're well-abled to do that (perform)," Duffy said. "And again, we're very fortunate to have the players that we have because honestly at times they make it look very easy and they're a joy to coach."