KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee soccer team opened its 2014 preseason training on Wednesday with several new players joining familiar faces on the Regal Soccer Stadium practice field.
The 2014 squad returns 17 veterans and welcomes 16 newcomers. The team's fitness testing leading up to the start of practice has been impressive and third-year Tennessee head coach Brian Pensky had praise for the athleticism that this year's team possesses.
"The biggest change that we've added to this group is quickness and speed," Pensky said. "We've done some test in terms of speed and quickness and some of their numbers are pretty impressive. So, we're excited about the athleticism we'll have this year and, combined with the fitness, we want to be a fast-playing team. We want to make it difficult for our opponents to play against us."
Wednesday's cool and cloudy morning made for a nice morning session that ran from 7:45 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. The team also held an evening training session from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
LEADERSHIP AT THE TOP
Pensky has 17 veterans who know the expectations of the program and understand the work that will be required to compete at a high level. He and the coaches feel that the experienced players will provide an added voice of direction for the 16 newcomers.
"Now it's their job to hold these younger players accountable and introduce to them what being good is all about," he said.
BIG ORANGE COAST TO COAST
This year's team features players from just about everywhere. Wilkinson still has the longest flight back home to her native New Zealand, but the Tennessee roster spans the full continental United States, from sea to shining sea.
Seven players hail from Virginia (Carlyn Baldwin, Gracie DeGooyer, Susan Ferguson, Meghan Flynn, Colleen Gawkins, Cali Hutson, Anna McClung) and seven are from Tennessee (Kiah Allen, Suzanne Capocaccia, Kathryn Culhane, Julie Eckel, Josie Jennings, Ariel Kupritz, Mackenzie Moore).
The Volunteers feature three Texans in Emily Morrow, Jamie Simmons and Brittney Wade. Ohio (Michele Christy and Allie Sirna), Florida (Christine Creighton and Madison Del Duca) and Maryland (Anna Bialczak and Aaran Parry) are represented by two players each.
The other 10 players made their way to Rocky Top from Nebraska (Amanda McClanahan), North Carolina (Ashley Jolly), Colorado (Olivia Knox), California (Alexis Smith), New Jersey (Meaghan Mulligan), New Mexico (Amy Neal), Kentucky (Eleanor Gabriel), New York (Gabby Santorio), Pennsylvania (Cheyenne Spade) and New Zealand (Wilkinson).