– It's the first week of August and there is a buzz around the Vanderbilt soccer stadium as the Commodores have kicked off preparations for the 2018 season which is just around the corner. Head coach Darren Ambrose
is looking forward to the upcoming season.
"We still have some work to do to gain game fitness which will come with time," said Ambrose. "It's early but there have been signs from an attacking perspective that we have a lot of weapons and can be very dangerous in the final third."
The Dores return 20 players from last season's team that reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament courtesy of a last-second goal from Stephanie Amack
that sunk No. 4 seed Ohio State in Columbus in the opening round. The win was Vanderbilt's first in the NCAA Tournament since 1998. This season, the team will also welcome eight newcomers that will look to contribute to the program in their rookie campaigns.
"Overall our freshmen are still getting to grips with the consistency needed with every practice but several of them have already shown that they are settling in well and are going to make a contribution as the season gets going," said Ambrose.
Gone are goal-scorers, Amack and Simone Charley
but the Commodores are loaded with young talent lead by Leila Azar and Jackie Welch
who combined for 17 points as freshmen while playing in each game.
The Vanderbilt defense should also be a force to be reckoned with as they return sophomore Myra Konte
who played all 22 games on the backline and was a member of the SEC All-Freshman team. A season ago, the Commodore defense held opponents scoreless in seven contests.
The Commodores will play a pair of exhibition contests on Aug. 5 at Tennessee Tech and home against Memphis on Aug. 11 before kicking off the regular season in earnest against Florida State on Aug. 18 in Tallahassee. Vanderbilt will open the home slate in Aug. 24 against Miami (Fla.) in the Music City Invitational.
Ambrose believes the Commodores' preseason scrimmages will be helpful as they prep for the upcoming season.
"We will know more about ourselves after we play our scrimmages," said Ambrose.