Tuesday was a long-awaited day for the Vanderbilt soccer team.
For many, it was the first time they had seen their teammates since classes ended in May. For the eight freshmen, it was an introduction into college life as a student-athlete.
But for Derek Greene, who enters his fourth year as head coach, the start of preseason camp on Tuesday meant soccer is right around the corner.
"As a staff, this is really what you live for -- you want to coach," Greene said before the team's first meeting. "Our season is crammed into three months. So the rest of the year is a lot of recruiting, a lot of stuff in the office, a lot of program management stuff. So we can't wait to really get our players back, our team back and our family back together. It is a great feeling and a great day. We're really excited."
There is no time to lose either.
The Commodores are eight days away from their first taste of competition. On Aug. 14, they host UAB in an exhibition game at 4 p.m. at the VU Soccer/Lacrosse Complex. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network + at secnetwork.com. It marks the same day as the launch of the SEC Network, which will be carried on Comcast, DIRECTV, DISH, AT&T U-verse and Cox. The SEC Network plans to carry live look-ins of the exhibition game against UAB but the entire game can be watched on SEC Network +.
Then, just a week later, on Friday, Aug. 22, the 2014 season begins at home against Mercer at 7 p.m.
"It comes at a perfect time for us," Greene said. "We get some training in. We get them acclimated to the heat. We get them acclimated to being back on the ball and being around each other. It is a really good test."
The Commodores return 21 players from the 2013 team and welcome eight freshmen.
All-SEC Freshman selection Simone Charley heads up the offensive charge for a team that had the highest single-season scoring output since 2005. Charley, a sophomore, is the team's top returning scorer after netting five goals and dishing out five assists. Sasha Gray (three goals, two assists) and Jamie Kator (two goals, five assists) also return. Gray, Kator, Andie Lakin, Cherrelle Jarrett, Erin Myers and Kelsey Tillman all played in all 19 games last year.
In goal, Olivia Liebman returns after making 65 saves in 15 games as a freshman. The Commodores will have depth in the goal as junior Shannon Morrish, who played in eight games in 2013, is back along with freshmen Christiana Ogunsami and Harley James.
"When you look across the board, we're built like an SEC team should be built," Greene said. "We're very athletic from the back to the front now. We're going to have some really good pieces in the goal to compete this year. It is really one of those things when you look at it, as a coach and a staff we obviously went at it as a hard as we could the last couple years. But we looked at this season and said a lot of great pieces are going to be in place. Now it is just a matter of us learning from our past mistakes and going forward as a group. So we're pumped."