Kip Coons, TSN Correspondent
RALEIGH, N.C. – The N.C. State Wolfpack women’s soccer squad needs to establish some additional scorers if it wants to improve its standing in the rigorous Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), finishing last a year ago without a league victory or tie.
Redshirt junior F Jackie Stengel, who played with the U.S. U-23 team over the summer, is an accomplished scorer with 14 career goals.
She tallied five of the Wolfpack’s 14 last year, but none of the other returnees netted more than a single goal.
The youth movement of a year ago produced four returning sophomore starters in defenders Hannah Keogh and Ella Bonner, midfielder Taylor Porter, and goalkeeper Sydney Wootten.
Maxine Blackwood started 10 matches a year ago at forward as a freshman before being sidelined by injury.
Junior Cailyn Boch is an experienced hand in the midfield, and senior Rachel Cox should see more playing time at forward in the search for scoring.
With Stengel sitting out a preseason exhibition game last Friday at Richmond, Cox tallied the Wolfpack’s only goal in a 1-1 tie.
Fourth-year coach Tim Santoro has brought in another top-20 recruiting haul of 11 players to improve the Wolfpack’s talent pool.
Two German players from Bayern Munich’s youth team could provide immediate help in D Kristina Schuster and M Ricarda Walkling.
M Tziarra King and M Kia Rankin also could contribute right away.
GK Grayson Cameron, a 5-foot-10 freshman, could challenge Wootten for playing time.
However, the Pack’s depth took a hit when three regulars from last year’s team — D Alyson Brown, F Alexa Allen, and GK Mackenzie Stelljes — opted to skip their final year of eligibility.
Brown was a two-year starter at central defender; Allen, a Jamaican national teamer, was the Pack’s second-leading scorer; and Stelljes started two years ago before splitting time with Wootten last year.
In addition, M Crystal Cordova, a starter in 11 matches as a freshman, also decided to give up soccer.
Brown’s early departure didn’t come as a surprise, but the other players could have helped the Wolfpack’s depth.
Santoro is hoping that another influx of young players in a key recruiting class this fall will offset their loss quickly.
Entering his fourth season as head coach, Santoro still has more questions than answers in front of him, however.
And the schedule-makers didn’t do him any favors.
The Wolfpack probably faces the toughest ACC schedule of any team in the league, playing six of the seven nationally ranked teams in the preseason poll and avoiding only No. 17 Virginia Tech.
They also have an early road date at No. 24 South Carolina.
The ACC teams that the Pack doesn’t play are Syracuse and Miami, who were picked in the bottom three along with State by the league’s coaches.
Santoro on the Wolfpack:
“I’ve been in the conference nine years and haven’t seen a team this talented at N.C. State. But we’re young. If we can grow up quickly and stay healthy, we can be very competitive.”
Quick Notes – N.C. State Wolfpack
Coach: Tim Santoro (13-42-2 in 3 years, all at N.C. State)
2015 record: 4-15, 0-10 ACC
Finish: 14th ACC
Starters returning: 6
Preseason ranking: Unranked
Key losses: F Alexa Allen 3-1-7, D Dayna Tamayko 1-1-3, M Jenna Kalwa 0-2-2, M Crystal Cordova 0-1-1, D Alyson Brown 0-0-0, GK Mackenzie Stelljes 2-5-0, 1.94 GAA.
Key returnees: R-Jr. F Jackie Stengel, So. M Taylor Porter 1-2-4, Sr. F Rachel Cox 1-2-4, Jr. M Cailyn Boch 1-0-2, So. D Ella Bonner 1-0-2, So. D Hannah Keogh 0-1-1, So. GK Sydney Wootten 2-10-0, 2.48 GAA.
Top newcomers: M Tziarra King, F Kia Rankin, M Michaella van Maanen, D Kristina Schuster, M Ricarda Walkling, GK Grayson Cameron
Won’t play: Miami, Syracuse, Virginia Tech