By Brittany Pacifico
Hoping to build on the best season in program history, USCB women’s soccer coach Ed Heberling has added 12 newcomers for the 2017 season.
The recruiting class includes four transfers and eight freshmen who Heberling hopes will not only bolster the Sand Sharks’ depth but also help USCB continue its climb into the top tier of the Sun Conference. The Sand Sharks graduated eight seniors that go down in the books as the class with the most wins in the program’s history.
“We are very excited for this recruiting class to come in and pick up where our seniors left off,” Heberling said. “ We have a good mix of players that have the ability to come in and compete right away. The graduating seniors have set the bar and the freshmen have to be ready to come in and build on the success.”
The quartet of transfers include attacking midfielder Melissa Fichtner (Toms River, N.J./Ocean County College), who joined the Sand Sharks in the spring after finishing her junior college career with 30 goals and 36 assists and earning first-team NJCAA Division III All-America honors.
USCB also added an NCAA Division I transfer in Rileigh Olsen (Buffalo, Wyo./University of Wyoming), a dynamic forward who can help “add a new dimension to our attack,” Heberling said. The Sand Sharks also will look for Valerie Jones (Lancaster, S.C./USC Lancaster) to add a veteran presence on the back line after earning team MVP honors for the Lancers. Heberling praised Jones’ work rate and commitment to helping USCB reach new heights.
The final transfer is goalkeeper Courtney Sherry (Laurens, N.Y./Mohawk Valley CC), who joins the Sand Sharks after posting a 1.84 goals against average with 103 saves and three shutouts last season. Heberling said he expects Sherry to compete for the starting role and push the team’s goalkeepers to improve.
The freshman class includes three in-state players, one international player, and a pair of high school teammates from Arizona. The Palmetto State recruits are Jori Benton (Fort Mill, S.C./Nation Ford HS), Samantha Hybarger (Smyrna, S.C./Clover HS), and Hailey Tehrani (Hartsville, S.C./Hartsville HS). Benton is a versatile player who could contribute at forward or outside back, while Hybarger is a natural center back and Tehrani is a hard-working midfielder.
The lone international player in the class is Sarah Kuskopf (Townsville, Australia), a defender who will bring much-needed size to the back line. Kuskopf plays for the Northern Fury club team in Australia and was invited to the 2015 West Ham United Oceania National Camp at the Gold Coast.
The high school teammates are midfielder Julia Turino (Glendale, Ariz./Mountain Ridge HS) and forward Britney Vere (Peoria, Ariz./Mountain Ridge HS). Defender Allison Schaffer (Sykesville, Md./Century HS) and forward Hannah Salus (West Point, N.Y./O’Neill HS) round out the class. Schaffer is an attacking outside back who earned first-team All-County and All-Conference honors in high school, while Salus was her high school team’s MVP last season and Heberling said she is the type of player who can endure physical play in the 18-yard box and put away scoring opportunities.
The Sand Sharks begin the 2017 campaign at home on August 22 against Life University.