The Peach Belt Conference features a handful of the best teams in the country and that is a credit, in part to the players who are a part of the league. Another exciting season is expected in the league and below are five players to keep an eye on this year.
Andre Simmond, Forward, USC Aiken
Simmond had a sensational freshman campaign, earning second-team all-conference honors, as he helped the Pacers reach the NCAA tournament. A year ago, he started 15 of the 19 matches he played in and racked up six goals. He was also impressive as a playmaker, dishing out 11 assists. The standout sophomore isn’t expected to fall off at all from a performance standpoint this year and will play a key role in helping Aiken contend for a conference championship and get back to the NCAA tourney.
Kendall Carballo, Forward, Young Harris
Carballo is expected to become the go-to guy for a Mountain Lions team that has visions of winning a national championship after reaching the NCAA tourney for the first time a year ago.
The native of Costa Rica lit up the scoreboard for 10 goals and also dished out an assist, helping to fuel an offense that churned out 78 goals en route to being the best team in the Peach Belt Conference.
If Carballo plays up to his potential during his sophomore season, the Mountain Lions are going to be in great shape in terms of achieving their lofty goals.
Avery Shepard, Midfieler, Clayton State
Shepard made quite an impact in his first year with the Cougars. The transfer out of Southern Poly Technical College started all 18 games and earned all-conference and all-region accolades.
His ability to make big plays was hard to miss as he came through with 12 goals and also tallied an assist. His goal total was the 30th-best in the nation and he scored at least one point in 11 of the 18 games he played in.
Expectations for Shepard will be even higher this year and there is no reason to think he won’t live up to them as he looks to put the Cougars in contention for a title and an NCAA tournament berth.
Sven Ricke, Midfieler, Francis Marion
Ricke turned in quite a junior year and is poised to make his senior season even better.
He finished second on the team in points, racking up five goals to go along with nine assists. His assist total was the best on the team. Ricke ended up as a second-team all-conference pick and started 13 games despite battling through an injury.
His knack for setting up others for big goals will serve the Patriots well in their quest to contend for a conference title and will perhaps even help them find their way into the NCAA tournament.
Jonny Cosgrove, Forward, Flagler
Cosgrove only played in eight matches but he made the most of his opportunities. The senior forward finished with a team-best six goals and has the potential to become an even bigger scoring threat this year.
The strides Cosgrove made last year are impressive when one considers he scored just once and finished with three assists.
Cosgrove seems poised for another big year and should end up as one of the top players in the league and perhaps even the region.