The Wolfpacker

September 2018

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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58 ■ THE WOLFPACKER BY JACEY ZEMBAL T he NC State women's soccer team has graduated from being the hunter to now being one of the hunted. NC State's two-year run has been impressive, highlighted by a Sweet 16 appearance in 2016 and a nifty 15-5-2 mark last year to finish ranked between No. 16 and No. 23 in the national polls. The Wolf- pack's historic 2017 season — the squad went 6-3-1 in conference play to finish third in the ACC, its highest placement ever, and tie the school record for league wins — ended with a NCAA Tournament second-round loss on penalty kicks to Princeton. Junior midfielders Tziarra King and Ricci Walkling lead the way, with King being named first-team All-ACC and Walkling earning a spot on the third team. Defender Lulu Guttenberger, who was one of the top freshmen in the country last year, spearheads the defense, while senior goalie Sydney Wootten returns as a four-year starter. With 14 players back who played at least 19 games last year, the expectations have been raised. The Wolfpack players under- stand how every game is important. "It is pretty much the same group, a year older and a year wiser," sixth-year head coach Tim Santoro said. "We are pretty optimistic. "They know they are good, but they now know how thorough you have to be at all times. We are going to get everyone's best game this year. That has never happened be- fore." Having a game-breaking scorer such as King, who has 25 goals and 57 points in her career, changes everything for NC State. Top Drawer Soccer ranked "Z" as the No. 26 overall player in the country following her sophomore year. Junior midfielder Tziarra King had one of the best seasons in school history last year, ranking among the top 10 in single-season goals (17, sixth) and points (40, seventh). PHOTO COURTESY NC STATE MEDIA RELATIONS W O M E N ' S SOCCER PREVIEW HIGH EXPECTATIONS NC State Returns All But One Starter From A Top-25 Team ■ Key Games • Vs. South Carolina, Aug. 26: NC State isn't duck- ing anyone in the non-conference schedule, and the chance to play South Carolina is a perfect example of that. The Gamecocks went 19-3-1 last year and finished ranked No. 3 in the country. • At Princeton, Sept. 2: The Wolfpack won't need any motivation for this match. Princeton ended NC State's season in the second round of the NCAA Championships on penalty kicks. The Tigers finished ranked No. 6 in the country with a 16-3-1 record, including a 2-0 regular-season win over the Wolfpack. • At Duke, Sept. 28: NC State doesn't get to play ri - val North Carolina in the regular season, but will have a big match against Duke. The Blue Devils finished second in the country last year and went 23-2-1. Duke topped NC State 2-0 in 2017. Noting The Pack • Head coach Tim Santoro said the perception of NC State soccer has definitely changed. Maybe opposing teams thought the 2016 edition that made the run to the Sweet 16 fell in the "fluke category." That is no longer the case, and his players have responded to the heightened expectations. "How they prepared and trained in the spring and the summer, they realize that any game could affect your season," Santoro said. "They have matured in that sense." Santoro took over a program that went 5-14 and 0-10 in the ACC, and the first three years were rough (13-42-2 overall and 2-31 ACC). "I've realized changes have happened, but the play - ers now realize it," he said. "I remind them all the time that isn't that far away, and if you aren't careful and don't prepare correctly [a program can slip back to previous results] … but we won't go as far back as we were." • Soccer recruiting usually starts at a younger age. For instance, the Wolfpack are targeting the classes of 2021 and mainly 2022 in recruiting. The recruiting pipeline to Germany has also helped. Junior defender Krissi Schuster, sophomore defender Lulu Gutten- berger and junior midfielder Ricci Walkling are all from Germany. "We are still not the blue chip Stanford, UCLA, UNC, Duke, where we have the name to just walk up and pick out whoever we want," Santoro said. "We have to be very meticulous and very thorough. We recruit talent and not résumés. "We haven't missed and that is key. We also have a European and German connection. I'd be lying if I didn't say that has helped things."

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