A year ago at this time the feeling was different. Sure, the men's soccer team at Southwestern Christian University was confident going into their first game of the season last year. The Eagles had just come off of a program-best 20-3 record and a trip to the national tournament the season before. They were feeling good, ready to roll into another victorious season and build a football dynasty at the NAIA school in Bethany, Oklahoma.
Things don't always go as planned, however, and even with the added depth and returning experience, the Eagles couldn't find the rhythm of their song. They struggled to synergize. Pieces didn't fall together. It was not quite the season they had been expecting of themselves.
"It was quite disappointing," said junior midfielder Adam Kay, an NCCAA All-American selection in 2011. "We managed to turn things around in the end but we disappointed ourselves at regionals again. It just wasn't our best season."
The Eagles collected only one-fourth of the wins in 2011 than they had in 2010, earning only five victories the entire season before being eliminated in round one of the NCCAA Regional Tournament to end their season early.
The early exit left Kay sitting on the side of the field in Waxahachie, Texas unlacing his boots and setting his mind on the preparation for the next year - the 2012 season.
"We could have done better," Kay reminisced. "I was just ready to get started on the next season and get out there on the field again."
Today, the Eagles have reached the dawn of the day of their first game of the 2012 season and they're more ready than ever.
"It is time to take this program to the next level," declared Coach Neil Cagle, head coach of the men's soccer program for the past three years. "My guys are good. Watching them play gives me chills. They're ready."
Cagle is expected to show seven new faces in Tuesday's starting lineup, with several more subbing throughout the course of the game. The newcomers will mix in with a proven batch of returners who are decorated with several honors from both the MCAC and NCCAA.
"We put together a very strong and balanced team this season. The group is solid across the board. I'm confident in our depth and talent this season. We aren't relying on any one player to get the job done, it's going to have to be a team effort."
The backbone of the team will be comprised of newcomers Olly Goddard and Luke Mazingham, who will take on the two positions of centerback. The duo is what Cagle likes to refer to as his ‘steak and taters' of the team.
"They have already been terrific. They are both quick and strong and good at organizing," Cagle emphasized.
"Our backline is very strong," Cagle said. "Those four guys can take care of business. Niall Ferguson and Adam Butler will also see a lot of playing time and they are very sharp. The competition along the backline is very good."
The middle of the field suffers a hit this season with the loss of All-American midfielder Adam Kay, who will be shelved all season to recover from a knee surgery that was done in offseason training.
"The loss of the player of Kay's caliber is a big loss," Cagle stated. "He was such a good leader on the field. He's still a good leader off the field, but not having him on the pitch is a big loss."
The Eagles still have several talented options in the midfield, however, as James Kilvington, Svetislav Milic, Matty Yeoman, Chris Galindo, Luis Meza, Adam Woodall, and Aaron Tarpey will all be contending for spots.
"Sandercock has certainly separated himself from the competition at striker, but we still have several others who keep fighting to be an option," Cagle pointed out.
In the 2012 MCAC Preseason Poll, Southwestern Christian was picked to finish third. Oklahoma Wesleyan University, who finished 14-5-2 in 2011, was selected to win the conference this season, while Bellevue University fell in at the two spot for preseason selections. Trailing SCU in the rankings is Central Baptist (Ark.), Central Christian (Kan.), York (Neb.), and Waldorf (Ia.).
SCU finished 2-2-1 in the MCAC in 2011, falling 3-2 to Oklahoma Wesleyan and 2-1 the Bellevue, while defeating Central Christian and Central Baptist, and tying York.
The Eagles are set to open their season this week, taking on a mighty Rogers State University squad that defeated SCU 5-0 last season.
The Hillcats finished with a solid 11-8-1 record overall in 2011 and have already opened their 2012 season on Saturday, August 25th with a 3-0 victory over Missouri Baptist.
"It's going to be a tough home opener against Rogers," stated Cagle. "Coach Larkin does a great job with his guys and we are going to have to scramble to get the job done."
The Eagles and Hillcats will square off on Tuesday, August 28th at SCU's Cagle Family Field. Kick off is set for 4pm.
Make sure to catch all of the action live by clicking on the ‘Watch Live' button at www.scueagles.com.