PALATINE, Ill. – The Harper College men's soccer team had an unprecedented 40 players try out for the team a few weeks ago. Head coach Jason Diebold was encouraged by the turnout, but he's even more confident in a 2013 team he described as "of quality from front to back".
Diebold's squad finally begins its season today at home at 4:00 PM against rival Joliet, who topped the Hawks three times last year, including a season-ending 2-1 loss in the Region IV Semifinals.
"It's a different mindset and higher commitment level of the players this year," Diebold said.
The N4C will once again be highly competitive, with Triton always providing a major challenge for the Hawks. The Trojans were 13-3 in 2012 and come into the season ranked No. 9 in the NJCAA Div. III preseason poll.
While the Hawks were 3-11 overall and 3-5 in the N4C in 2012, returning sophomore goalkeeper Sean Cox (Schaumburg, Ill./Conant) and his teammates have set the bar higher this year with their goals.
"Our three goals this year are to grow our team chemistry, win our conference and make it to nationals," Cox said.
Sophomore defender Omar Perez (Rolling Meadows, Ill./Rolling Meadows) described practices as very competitive and, like Cox, said the ultimate goal is to make it to nationals this year.
The Hawks play eight N4C games in 2013 and two non-conference opponents, Lincoln Land Community College on Aug. 31 and Kishwaukee College on Oct. 5 to end the regular season.
Postseason play begins on Oct. 23 with the Region IV Quarterfinals. The Region IV Championship will be held Oct. 30. The NJCAA DIII National Championship runs from Nov. 14-17 and is hosted by Herkimer County Community College.