The 2019 Alabama soccer season starts Thursday and coach Wes Hart can’t wait.

There is a reason for enthusiasm from the coach, who enters his fifth year with the Crimson Tide.

Of the 26 Alabama players on the roster, eleven are freshmen.

“We have an incredible freshman class coming in,” Hart said. “Realistically, of 11 players, six of them have a chance to start at some point, whether it’s the first game of the season or midway through the season. I can see a lot of them having the opportunity to break into the starting lineup.

Alabama hosts BYU at the Alabama Soccer Complex at 7 p.m.

“My expectations are through the roof,” Hart said. “We have more talent than ever. Each of the past four years we have gotten more and more talented and more and more depth.

Veteran leadership

Just because there are so many freshmen on the team doesn’t mean Alabama is without upperclassman guidance.

“We have three seniors that all have leadership qualities,” Hart said. “They have the respect of the team and the voice of the team.”

Defender Nealy Martin is a returning captain and the lone senior. She started all 19 games last season. Juniors Chloe Maize (forward) and Alex Plavin (goalkeeper) are also back to lead the way.

Offensive leaders

The good news for the Crimson Tide this season is leading goal scorer Casey Wertz returns. She scored eight goals last season with 14 starts.

Kat Rogers, sophomore, scored four goals last year with two assists last season.

Next level

Finishing 8-8-3 overall with a 2-6-2 SEC mark was not at all the season Hart envisioned considering the talent level on the roster. With a talented crop of freshmen and a solid core of returning starters back this year’s squad will have a different approach to the season.

“Something we have lacked is a little more bite, a little more edge and a little more grittiness,” Hart said. “We underachieved last year for our talent and ability. We used that as motivation and got after it a bit. We worked our butt off in the winter and spring. We are impressed and it truly feels like a tougher, hard-nosed, gritty group and that’s exciting for me to see.”