NewsMVNU Men's Soccer Team Finishes Another Winning Season
written by Dave Parsons, Sports Information Director
MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - The Mount Vernon Nazarene University men's soccer team posted a 13-5-1 overall record in 2003 for the team's seventh straight season with at least 12 wins.
The Cougars began the year with a seven-day trip to Portugal that saw MVNU play two exhibition matches against local professional teams in Madeira. The trip was coordinated in part by Samuel Simoes, a 1998 graduate of MVNU, who serves as the pastor of the Madeira Church of the Nazarene.
Upon returning home, the Cougars began the season by splitting a pair of matches at the Judson (Ill.) College Invitational Tournament as MVNU fell to the host Eagles 2-0 in the second round of the tournament.
The team rebounded by winning seven straight matches as the Cougars improved to 8-1-0 on the season. During the winning streak, MVNU won the First-Knox Cougar Invitational with victories over Moody Bible (Ill.) Institute and Nyack (N.Y.) College. For their efforts in the tournament, sophomore midfielder Jeffery Hinds was named the Most Valuable Player, while junior forward Nate Sommers was the Most Valuable Offensive Player. Senior goalkeeper Josh Schlenker, sophomore defender Les Claxon, and freshman forward Steven Lesmes joined Hinds and Sommers on the All-Tournament Team.
MVNU went 2-3-1 over its next six matches with wins over Taylor (Ind.) University and Malone College and a tie with Tiffin University, the eventual NAIA Region IX Tournament runner-up. The Cougars also held their own in a 2-0 loss at the University of Rio Grande, the eventual NAIA national champions.
At that point, MVNU closed out the regular season by winning its final three matches as the Cougars notched victories over Grace (Ind.) College, Shawnee State University, and Walsh University to finish the regular season with a 13-4-1 record. The team also just missed out making the NAIA Region IX Tournament as MVNU tied for fourth place in the American Mideast Conference South Division with a 4-3-1 mark, but lost out on the head-to-head tiebreaker due to a loss to Ohio Dominican University.
Following a 13-day layoff, the Cougars returned to action in the National Christian College Athletic Association East Region Tournament at Roberts Wesleyan (N.Y.) College. Despite a 10-7 edge in total shots and a 7-2 advantage in shots on goal, MVNU dropped a hard-fought 1-0 decision to Geneva (Pa.) College in the semifinals as the team's season came to an end.
"It is strange how we can say that a 13-5-1 season is disappointing, but that is where our program has evolved to," said MVNU head coach Paul Furey. "There were lessons that we learned, and with a solid core of youth to build on, we will continue the success and find ways to win the big games more consistently."
"I guess we can sum up this season by saying there is no place like home," Furey added, referring to the team's first-ever unbeaten season at home. "While we were flawless at home at 10-0-1, we had our troubles on the road, especially in three big matches that kept us from attaining some of our goals."
Individually, four seniors wrapped up their careers at MVNU. Defenders Ricky Warren and Jeremy Hilen played in 86 and 82 career matches as they anchored the back line for the past four years. Forward Dave Barry contributed 12 goals and seven assists in 78 games during his four-year career, while Schlenker started five matches in goal - all MVNU wins - this year as a walk-on.
Sommers led the team with 12 goals to go with four assists this season, while junior midfielder Matt Packard finished the year with five goals and four assists. Hinds added five goals and three assists, and Hilen led the team with six assists. Sophomore Shawn Morrison also contributed two assists as he started every match in the midfield. Morrison and Warren were the only two players to start every match this year.
In addition to Warren and Hilen, juniors Marc Stasiowski and Jamie Hilen were key components of the Cougars' defense that allowed only 22 goals to equal the school record while posting six shutouts. Claxon also added depth to the back line.
A talented freshman class gained plenty of collegiate experience in 2003, which bodes well for the future. Lesmes finished the year with 10 goals and three assists, while midfielder Josh Van Pelt added four goals and two assists. Midfielders Stephen Reynard (two goals and five assists), Daniel Seiffert (two goals and one assist), and Seth Taylor (one assist) also made an impact. Meanwhile, goalkeeper Jordan Knight started 13 matches and posted a 1.27 goals against average with three shutouts.
With nine starters and the nucleus of the team returning with another year of experience under their belts, the future looks bright for the MVNU men's soccer program as the Cougars will look to continue their winning ways in 2004.