The Darton women's soccer program is 182-29-8 since Ken Veilands started the program in 2000.
ALBANY -- With just a handful of practices under its belt, the Darton women's soccer team will host one of the top amateur clubs in the state tonight.
The Atlanta Fire, a U18 Elite Club, will play the Lady Cavaliers at 8:30 p.m. in an exhibition game, and Darton coach Ken Veilands said the matchup is beneficial to his program for more than one reason.
"It's really just trying to throw our kids out there to start to get a feel for playing under a little bit of pressure. You are always going to get a little more out of them in a game session than in a training session," Veilands said.
Veilands then added: "Plus, there are a lot of kids (on the Fire) that I would like to recruit. It's great to be able to bring them down to our campus."
The Lady Cavs finished last season 15-3-1, losing in the finals of the NJCAA Region XVII Tournament to Georgia Perimeter College. This year's Darton squad, which just started practice Monday, is stocked full of returning players and loaded with experience.
"This is probably the soonest we have gone into a game situation," Veilands said. "I have a lot of returning players, plus several transfer players, so we are a little more mature to begin with. I feel good about it. I think we will adapt very well."
Darton travels to Valdosta State on Tuesday for another exhibition and then to Thomasville on Aug. 20 for a jamboree. The Lady Cavs officially open their season Aug. 28 at home against Oxford College.
DC MEN'S SOCCER OPENS SEASON RANKED 6TH:
The Darton men's soccer team will begin the 2011 soccer season with a Top 10 ranking and targets on their backs head coach Bart Sasnett said Thursday.
The Cavs were recently ranked sixth in the National Junior College Athletics Association preseason coaches' poll.
"It's exciting for the program and the school," Sasnett said of the ranking, which is the highest preseason mark in the program's history. "But from a game aspect, it's just putting an X on your back early.
"So everybody is gunning for you early."
Several young players will be thrown into the fire early this season, as eight starters are gone from last year's team that placed sixth in the 2010 NJCAA nationals in Tyler, Texas.
Players gone from last season's squad include First-Team All Americans Mynor Perez and Matias Aristegui. Perez, a forward, had 30 goals last season to become the nation's second-leading goal-scorer. Aristegui, meanwhile, played a critical role for the team as sweeper.
Sasnett's three returning starters are all midfielders: Javier Anor, of Caracas, Venezuela; Guilherme Frota, of Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Diego Ramos, of Deerfield Beach, Fla.
However, Sasnett said that each roster spot is still up for grabs.
The Cavs will open the season against ninth-ranked San Jacinto Community College on Aug. 26 in Pensacola. The team will then travel to Douglas the following day to face Region XVII rival South Georgia College.
And Sasnett knows that despite the coaches' poll, there is a long season ahead.
"It's a nice gesture," he said. "But it's where you wind up at the end of the season (that counts)."
CAVS PITCHER SUFFERS ARM INJURY:
Three weeks ago while pitching in a summer tournament, Kyle Conkle heard a pop in his elbow -- the sound that can end seasons, even careers.
Conkle, who was first-year Darton baseball coach Scot Hemmings' top summer recruit, nearly saw his Darton baseball career come to an end before even suiting up for the Cavs.
"When I snapped the curveball off, it was a like a shotgun went off in my elbow," Conkle told the Fort Payne (Ala.) Times-Journal. "You hear those horror stories -- when your elbow pops, something is wrong."
An MRI showed a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament and a partially torn posterior flexor muscle -- news that meant the sophomore pitcher would avoid a season-ending surgery.
Instead, the former Fort Payne High School star will go through two months of rehab and should be 100 percent by January, Hemmings told The Herald on Thursday.
Pretty good news, considering the potential of the sophomore transfer from Pensacola State College.
"He is an unbelievable player for us," Hemmings said Thursday. "He is a potential No. 1 pitcher and can hit in the three hole for us. We are going to get him healthy, and he will be a huge difference maker on our roster."
Conkle signed with Darton in June and was just one of several summer pitching acquisitions that included former Lee County star Matt Aldrich.
Conkle's fastball is between 86-91 mph, and he throws a breaking ball and a changeup. Hemmings also said his mechanics and composure on the mound are top notch.
"The first pitch I saw him throw was 89 miles per hour," Hemmings said. "You just don't see those guys in June. They are usually snatched up.
"We really are excited about the upcoming season. We are going to put a lot of freshmen out there, so we will probably go through some ups and downs early. But we have some talented kids out there that can get it done."
DARTON UNVEILS NEW, IMPROVED ATHLETIC WEBSITE:
Fans of Darton College sports will see some improvements on the school's athletic website, Director of Athletics Mike Kiefer said Thursday.
The layout of the department's website (www.cavs.darton.edu) was updated last week to a template that the college started using nearly two years ago for the school's main home page, and Kiefer said the new design gives the site a cleaner look.
"I think it's important to have a good website," Kiefer said. "You know how important it is to catch someone's eye when they aren't even on your campus. For a lot of people, their only impression of Darton is going to be our website."
Dorea Hardy, the school's IT Web application professional, worked alongside the Macon-based digital media creation company Third Wave Digital to design and encode the site.
"It's more streamlined," Hardy said of the new website. "It's not as bulky and is cleaner than the old one. The other layout was a bit dark. This is a bit lighter, so it makes it easier to read. I also think the navigation is easier for people to use."