NewsMVNU Men's Soccer Program Looks to Continue Winning Ways
written by Dave Parsons, Sports Information Director
MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - Over the past five years, the Mount Vernon Nazarene University men's soccer team has posted a 78-34-6 overall record as the Cougars enjoyed the best five-year span in the program's 23-year history.
Using that success as a building block, MVNU will look to continue its winning ways when the 2002 season gets under way with a pair of scrimmages this weekend before heading to Idaho next week to officially kick off the new year.
The Cougars are coming off a 14-6-2 season in 2001 as the team advanced all the way to the semifinals of the NAIA Region IX Tournament for the second straight year. MVNU also finished fifth in the highly-competitive American Mideast Conference with an 11-4-1 record.
Head coach Paul Furey, who is entering his thirteenth season at MVNU with a 136-106-15 record, has the luxury of returning every starter on the defensive side from last year's squad that posted a new school record for fewest goals allowed at 22.
Leading the way for the Cougars will be senior goalkeeper Trevor Knowles, who was among the NAIA leaders by allowing just 1.07 goals per match. For his efforts in 2001, Knowles was named to the National Christian College Athletic Association All-American First Team and the AMC Honorable Mention squad. He will be backed up in goal by senior Ryan Pearce and freshman Jarred Renner.
"Trevor has done an outstanding job for us the past three seasons and I anticipate his senior year to be the best," said Furey of his starting goalie. "Ryan has also improved tremendously during his time here as Trevor's backup, but it is his leadership that has really helped this team succeed."
Senior Casey Swanson and juniors Marc Stasiowski, Ricky Warren, and Jeremy Hilen all return to anchor the back line that was so successful a year ago in helping the team post 10 shutouts in 22 matches. Swanson and Hilen were each selected as the AMC Defender of the Week once during the season, and Hilen was an AMC Honorable Mention pick. They will be joined by sophomore Jamie Hilen and freshman Les Claxon.
"Having four returning starters to our back line will certainly make our defensive scheme solid," said Furey. "Casey, Marc, Ricky, and Jeremy bring size, speed, and the ability to go forward which has helped us to be pretty strong defensively. Jamie is also a very capable starter who adds depth to our back line along with Les."
Junior Matt Packard will orchestrate the play in the midfield with the help of returning seniors Danny Lueking and Jeremy Stabile and junior Brian Souder. Packard was an AMC Honorable Mention pick last year after recording eight goals and six assists, while Souder added four goals and seven assists. Stabile chipped in with two goals and five assists, and Lueking returns after missing the 2001 season with a knee injury. They will be joined in the midfield by newcomers Justin Thompson, a sophomore, and Shawn Morrison, a freshman.
"We have experience and poise in the midfield - smart players who will work hard and create scoring opportunities for us," said Furey. "Hopefully, we have the legs to fulfill the job of what we ask from our midfielders at both ends of the field."
Sophomore Nate Sommers returns at the forward spot following a stellar freshman season in which he was second on the team with 14 goals scored to go along with seven assists. He will be joined up front by junior Dave Barry (five goals in 2001) and freshmen Scott Poole and Jeffrey Hinds.
"Nate really had a fine freshman year and I know that he will be a lot more prepared having been around the block once," said Furey. "Now, we need to discover who will be a good running mate for him, although I am confident all three will be an asset to our attack."
After finishing fifth in the AMC and qualifying for the NAIA Region IX Tournament, the Cougars will look to improve on their conference standing and make it back to the NAIA postseason once again. This season, the AMC has been divided into a North and South Division with MVNU competing in the South Division against the University of Rio Grande (#3 in the NAIA preseason poll), Tiffin University, Ohio Dominican University, Cedarville University, Shawnee State University, and Urbana University.
In addition to their conference schedule, the Cougars will play non-conference matches against Albertson (Idaho) College (#16 in the NAIA preseason poll), Northwest Nazarene (Idaho) University, Kenyon College, Wittenberg University, Geneva (Pa.) College, Siena Heights (Mich.) University, Madonna (Mich.) University, Taylor (Ind.) University, Malone College, Trinity International (Ill.) University, and Kentucky Christian College. MVNU will also host Lee (Tenn.) University and Cumberland (Ky.) College at the annual First-Knox Cougar Invitational on September 6-7.
"It has been great experiencing the success we have had the past five years with two NAIA regional final four appearances and three strong finishes in the NCCAA national championships," said Furey. "Those achievements may be tough to keep going, but I know we will have a good time giving it our best shot this year. We have a great group to work with, but we will have to overcome some early preseason injuries and setbacks if we hope to continue the success we have experienced."
MVNU will kick off the 2002 campaign with an exhibition match against NCAA III perennial power Ohio Wesleyan University at 5:00 p.m. on Friday at Columbus Crew Stadium. Tickets for that match are $5.00 per person and include admission to the second match of the night between the Ohio State University and the University of Maryland. The Cougars will also host an exhibition match with Columbus State Community College on Saturday at 1:00 p.m.