The College of Charleston men's soccer team has already garnered a great deal of respect as the Cougars head into the 2010 season.
Charleston received five of eight first-place votes to easily finish at the top of the coaches' preseason soccer poll, and two Cougars players -- seniors Sean Flatley and Kareem Yearwood -- were named to the conference's preseason first team.
"That is a great sign of respect from the coaches and I appreciate it so much," said veteran College of Charleston coach Ralph Lundy.
"We have six seniors and the players know it comes down to winning one game at a time. We have a very tough schedule. The conference is tough with parity from top to bottom. The players appreciate this honor and I do, too. But we all know the proof is in the playing."
The Cougars face three top-20 teams in the opening week of the schedule, including No. 10 Ohio State and No. 16 Penn State this weekend in Columbus, Ohio. Charleston also plays at perennial power Wake Forest before the conference season opens. The Cougars' home opener is Sept. 17 against Bucknell.
Lundy said one of this team's biggest strengths is its depth.
"In a 12-week season, you play between 17 and 20 matches. Soccer is a brutal game on your body. We have some depth and that's a big deal in college soccer. It's going to help us," Lundy said. Lundy also said the Cougars' trip to Italy last May also has helped the Cougars. Charleston won four of the five matches the Cougars played.
"The trip was amazing for the soccer, the camaraderie and the team spirit," Lundy said. "They will talk about that trip 40 years from now."
Yearwood played in only five matches last year after being injured in September. Flatley started 20 matches and made first team all-conference.
Charleston also gets back sophomore Sean de Silva, who left school to play in two World Cups for Trinidad.
"I'm real happy with the players' attitude," Lundy said. "Our schedule is unforgiving, so we have to get at it. The way players and teams get better, they must compete inside the team every day. They manage to keep it within the team spirit. A lot of players are really contributing."