When USC Beaufort athletics director Ty Rietkovich spoke to candidates about the prospect of becoming the Sand Sharks' first women's soccer coach, he made it a point to ask how they would approach launching a new program in a rather compact time frame.
Many responded with concerns or potential excuses for why the team might struggle in its inaugural season.
But not Ed Heberling -- he has been down that path before, rebuilding the men's and women's programs at Iowa Wesleyan College and launching a women's program from scratch at Tri-County Technical College.
"He looked at this from a totally different perspective than any other candidate," Rietkovich said. "He was one of the few that literally without hesitation said, 'Yeah, it's no problem. I've done this before.' "
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And he'll get a chance to do it again.
Heberling was announced Monday as the Sand Sharks' first women's soccer coach, taking the reins for a program that will launch in August and play a full Sun Conference schedule.
Last year, Heberling was the head men's and women's soccer coach at Tri-County Technical College in the Upstate. Despite returning only two players on the men's team, he led the Hawks to a 6-10-1 record. The first-year women's program went 0-12, but simply getting the program off the ground after taking over in May was no small victory.
Before that, Heberling was director of soccer operations at Iowa Wesleyan College, where he coached from 2003-10 and left as the all-time winningest women's soccer coach in school history. When he took over the men's and women's program there, each had three returning players.
His experience putting together a roster on such short notice will come in handy at USCB, where he has about six months to build a program. In doing so, Heberling hopes to lean heavily on players from local high schools, but he also hopes to bring in a number of junior college transfers to help speed up the learning curve for the fledgling program.
"I want to have a good mix, so that we have some experienced players who can give us some leadership and give the younger girls a little bit more of an idea of what it takes to play college soccer," Heberling said, "because it's a big difference from the high school and club teams."
Heberling's wife, Laura, was hired as the Sand Sharks' assistant softball coach and associate director of athletic marketing earlier this month.
BACK ON THE MOUND
USCB baseball coach Rick Sofield's voice contained a hint of surprise when discussing the Sand Sharks' bullpen options less than a week before his team was to begin its season.
"Weldon Smith is going to do some pitching for us," Sofield said, explaining that the former standout with Battery Creek High School and the Beaufort Ospreys American Legion team had excelled on the mound in a recent intrasquad game.
Smith had played exclusively in the infield -- at first base, shortstop and third base -- in his first two seasons with the Sand Sharks, but he volunteered to do his part to bolster a pitching corps that was thinned in the offseason by injuries and academic issues.
And so far, Sofield likes what he sees.
Smith threw a seven-inning complete game in his first game action Sunday against Fisher College, allowing two runs -- one earned -- on nine hits, while striking out seven.
It's not the first time the Sand Sharks have had success moving players they recruited as infielders to the mound. Last year, Sofield shifted Andrew Barrineau from shortstop to pitcher, and the right-hander responded by developing into one of the team's most reliable relievers, a trend that has held so far this season.
HUTSON HITS 'A' STANDARD
USCB junior Selena Hutson became the fifth Sand Sharks runner to qualify for the NAIA National Outdoor Track and Field Championships when she met the "A" qualifying standard for the marathon event by running the Hilton Head Island Half Marathon in 1 hour, 28 minutes, 57 seconds on Saturday.
Hutson finished fourth overall in the women's division.
She joins teammates Katie Mock, Marshall Meyer, Frank Tinsley and John Critchlow in qualifying for the marathon at nationals -- those four ran "A" standard qualifying times in the Bluffton Half Marathon in November.
Teams may have unlimited entries under the "A" standard but are limited to three "B" standard entries per gender.
Three other USCB runners competed Saturday, but did not qualify for nationals. Ian Evans finished seventh in the men's division in a time of 1:22:02, John Stanas ran 1:36:00, and Caitlin Howe finished in 1:41:27.
The Sand Sharks begin their track season March 4 at the North Florida Invitational in Jacksonville, Fla. The national championships are set for May 26-28 in Marion, Ind.