Training camps for Pfeiffer University’s fall sports teams opened on Aug. 14 in anticipation of seasons that will begin by early September. Tony Faticoni, the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at Pfeiffer, couldn’t be happier.
“I think all of us are really excited that things are going to be back to normal,” he said. “It’s exciting to be able to get a full season again.”
The situation for fall sports was quite different during the last academic year. All soccer, volleyball and cross country contests were cancelled during fall 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and each of Pfeiffer’s 21 teams played an abbreviated schedule the following spring semester.
Now, normal-length schedules are set to resume, and Pfeiffer’s friends and alumni are once again allowed to attend home games at the University’s Misenheimer campus. At this time, there are no COVID restrictions via the USA South conference, of which Pfeiffer is a member. For all home indoor events, the wearing of masks is required, per Pfeiffer policy.
Season previews for each of the fall teams promise an exciting season:
Men’s Cross Country
Last spring, competing on a rain-drenched course at North Carolina Wesleyan University, the men’s cross country runners were paced by then-freshman Trent Rivers.
This fall, Rivers will lead a young team, joining three freshman recruits: Coleman Huggins, Jeremiah Ivory, and Brandon Rowe.
“My ultimate hope is that these four guys run together as a group,” said Andrew Howard, who begins his sixth season head-coaching Pfeiffer’s cross country and track & field programs. “They all have similar times, so they can train together and push each other. So, that kind of sets us up for the future a little bit.”
Women’s Cross Country
Howard predicts that his team will land in the top half of the conference’s 20 schools. He’s counting on two juniors to lead the way: Alyson Hanlon and Micah Welborn.
Two years ago, Hanlon was the best runner on the women’s cross country team and among the conference’s Top 30 runners. Howard expects her to do even better this season.
Welborn isn’t as comfortable with running cross country as she might be because she didn’t do it in high school. But, Howard called her “a great runner and really talented”; she’ll do well this season if she keeps her confidence up, he said.
Katie Cobb, the Head Women’s Soccer Coach, is optimistic about her prospects, having coached her team to a USA South East Division Finals appearance in the abbreviated COVID season. “We are looking forward to having a normal year where leadership can shine, and we can move forward as far as team building goes,” she said.
Cobb sounded excited about her newest recruits, particularly midfielder Julia Hayes: “We’re hoping she can step up in the midfield and get some playing time right away and try to recover what we have lost in those seniors,” whom the team lost to graduation last spring.
Cobb expects returning defender Morgan Cecil to provide leadership as a senior. She and forward Dayanna Riera earned USA South East Division First Team honors for numerous contributions last spring.
Leadership should also come from Cayci Eaton, a forward who’s pursuing an MBA at Pfeiffer full-time and, therefore, gained another year of eligibility.
Men’s soccer finished with a 2-4-2 overall record during the abbreviated COVID season. Nevertheless, Faticoni is optimistic his team can be a contender this fall in the USA South, noting that this past spring, they beat Greensboro College, the conference champion, and tied William Peace University, which Greensboro played in the semifinals.
“I think it’s realistic for anybody in our conference to make that run and go for a conference championship,” he said.
Faticoni said that his team’s prospects depend on how well his new and veteran players make up for the “big loss” of midfielder Caz Dabrowski, who graduated last spring after making the USA South’s 2020-21 Academic All-Conference Team.
Steven Lozano, a freshman whom Faticoni recruited after coaching him at Charlotte Soccer Academy, could fill Dabrowski’s shoes. Though lacking Dabrowski’s size, Lozano is a “very skilled” and a “very technical” player who “can play in the center of the park and outside the field,” Faticoni said.
“We want to be a team that works hard, plays well together as a team, communicates, and just leaves everything on the court every time we play,” said Melissa Ferris, the Head Volleyball Coach. “If we do that, we will be successful no matter where we end up in the ranking.”
Ferris called her contingent of first-year players “one of the strongest classes we have brought in.” She expects several to have an impact.
She was bullish on her returning players, particularly Emma Gray Beacham, a grad student who is entering her final season.
Beacham “has been with me from the very beginning and truly has given Pfeiffer volleyball everything,” Ferris said. “I am looking forward to her coming in and being a great leader on and off the court and just having a very successful year at the libero spot.”
Ken Keuffel, who authored this article, has served as Pfeiffer’s Assistant Director of Communications since December 2019. He welcomes story ideas from Pfeiffer’s faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends. The form for submitting story ideas is at www.pfeiffer.edu/newsform.