The Mount Vernon Nazarene College men's soccer team completed another successful campaign in 2001 as the Cougars posted an overall record of 14-6-2 for the program's fifth straight season with 12 or more victories.
Following a season-opening 3-1 loss at Life (Ga.) College, ranked 18th in the NAIA, MVNC won four of its next five matches and tied Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) University 1-1 in the other match as the team's record stood at 4-1-1.
After suffering a 2-1 loss at Houghton (N.Y.) College, the Cougars won three straight matches to improve to 7-2-1. One of the victories was a 1-0 overtime win at Roberts Wesleyan (N.Y.) College, which was ranked sixth in the NAIA at the time.
Then, MVNC went through a scoring drought as the Cougars tied Walsh 2-2 on the Cavaliers' field, lost 2-0 to then sixth-ranked University of Rio Grande, and lost 1-0 to Tiffin University as MVNC's record stood at 7-4-2.
However, the team rebounded well by running off five straight victories over Point Park (Pa.) College, Saint Vincent (Pa.) College, Malone College, Notre Dame College, and Shawnee State University to improve to 12-4-2.
Following a 1-0 loss at Cedarville University, the Cougars closed out the regular season with an impressive 5-2 win at Ohio Dominican College, the defending American Mideast Conference champions. That gave MVNC a 13-5-2 overall record and an 11-4-1 conference mark which was good enough for fifth place in the 17-team AMC race.
The Cougars gained a measure of revenge in their next match as MVNC opened postseason play with a 2-0 victory at Cedarville in the AMC Tournament quarterfinals as the team advanced to the NAIA Region IX semifinals.
In the region semifinals, the Cougars squared off against Rio Grande (20-0-1) and fell to the fourth-ranked Redmen 3-1 in a hard-fought match as the team's season came to an end. Rio Grande would go on to win the region title and advance all the way to the semifinals of the NAIA National Tournament.
"I think that the players can take tremendous pride in getting back into the region tournament for the second straight year and overcoming a number of obstacles to finish another very successful season," said MVNC head coach Paul Furey. "That speaks directly to the character of these young men and their determination to not allow setbacks to deter their ultimate objectives. This has been a special group that I am very fond of, and I am happy for them in what they accomplished this season."
The team was led by the winningest senior class in school history as Preston Elifritz, Nels Radtke, and Jeremy Stabile helped the team post a 66-26-5 record over four years (.706 winning percentage).
"As for our seniors, they leave this program as the winningest class averaging almost 17 victories per season the past four years," said Furey. "That is a credit to them and the type of individuals that they are. We will miss them greatly. Not just because of what they meant to this team and our success, but what they mean as quality individuals whose friendship and spirit will be long-remembered."
Elifritz, a forward, finished the year as the team's leading scorer with 20 goals to go along with a team-high nine assists. For his career, he is tied for first in school history in matches played and started (96), and he ranks second in goals (54), assists (45), and total points (153).
Radtke, a midfielder, posted six assists in his final season as he started every match. For his four-year career, he played in 69 matches with four goals and 10 assists. Stabile, another midfielder, compiled two goals and five assists this year to finish with three goals and eight assists for his career.
Junior goalkeeper Trevor Knowles also had an outstanding season as he helped the Cougars post a new school record for fewest goals allowed (22). Knowles also helped the team post 10 shutouts.
Junior Casey Swanson led the team in minutes played with 2,044 as he anchored the MVNC defense. He also registered five assists. Meanwhile, sophomore Jeremy Hilen (one goal, eight assists), Marc Stasiowski (one goal, one assist), and Ricky Warren (two goals, two assists) and freshman Jamie Hilen (one goal, one assist) also contributed significantly to the team's record-setting defensive season.
Offensively, the Cougars were very balanced on the attack. In addition to the numbers posted by Elifritz, freshman forward Nate Sommers tallied 14 goals and seven assists. Sophomore forwards Clint Thress (five goals, four assists) and Dave Barry (five goals), along with freshmen forwards Jake Drost (five goals, five assists), Chris LeVeck (four goals, eight assists), and Acori Ross (four goals, two assists), helped the team score 83 total goals.
MVNC's midfield was also very successful as sophomores Matt Packard (eight goals, six assists) and Brian Souder (four goals, seven assists) each posted good numbers. Freshman T.J. Myers also had an outstanding rookie season with seven goals and four assists.
With so many talented young players, the future looks bright for the Cougars as they will look to continue their winning tradition in 2002.