LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN -- A year after graduating seven starters, the Covenant women's soccer team looks to maintain its strong presence in the USA South with talented returners and 14 newcomers. Coming off a 13-win season a year ago, 24th-year head coach Mark Duble has a young, but talented, squad entering the 2017 campaign.
Covenant opens the season on Saturday, Sept. 2 at home against Berea at 4 p.m.
Four starters are back from last season's team and will look to anchor the lineup as the veterans of the team. All-USA South performers in junior goalkeeper Rachel Lemay and junior Callie Bader highlight the returners. Sophomores Anna Robertson and Ashlyn Franks, along with Lizzy Hightower, look to build on their strong freshman seasons. Senior Rebekah Gravitt is the team's leading returning goal-scorer and sophomore Abby Gienapp was one of nine players to tally multiple goals last year.
The freshman class is a big one and Duble is excited about the talent overall. At 5-foot-11, Molly Kate McClearn is the tallest player in the incoming class and could pose threats against any defense at the forward spot. Included with the newcomers is transfer Addy Cronan. Cronan, a sophomore, was an All-SAA player at Berry last season and adds another strong forward to the team.
With a home-laden schedule, the Lady Scots will have the opportunity to play some key matches on their home turf. Though not a USA South contest, Saturday's opener against Berea will give Covenant an early look at one of the three league newcomers. During the year, Covenant will also host a key USA South matchup with Maryville (Oct. 19) and host regional powers Berry (Oct. 11) and Emory (Oct. 23).
The USA South Tournament will feature the top six teams from each division, with seeds 3-4 hosting first round matches on Oct. 25 followed by divisional seeds 1-2 hosting quarterfinal round games on Oct. 28. The semifinals and championship will be played at the highest remaining seed on Nov. 3-4.
Duble, in his 24th year, enters the season just four wins shy of 250 in his coaching career. The only coach in program history, Duble has accumulated a 246-152-30 record over the last 23 years that includes 12 total conference championship and a pair of national tournament appearances.
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