NewsYoung Cougars Ready to Grow up as 2004 Season Unfolds
written by Dave Parsons, Sports Information Director
MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - With only six upperclassmen returning from the 2003 team that posted a 13-5-1 overall record and finished tied for fourth in the American Mideast Conference South Division with a 4-3-1 mark, the Mount Vernon Nazarene University men’s soccer team will have a lot of new faces when the 2004 season gets under way on August 26 at 6:00 p.m. at Asbury (Ky.) College.
The Cougars, who posted the program’s first-ever unbeaten home season with a 10-0-1 mark in 2003, return only two seniors and four juniors as MVNU will rely heavily on its younger players.
"This should be an exciting but interesting year for the Cougar soccer program as we strive to take some of our home success from a year ago and play a bit more consistently on the road,” said MVNU head coach Paul Furey, who has posted a 164-119-16 record as he enters his fifteenth year with the Cougars. "Although I feel we have a good solid core of returning players and fresh new talent, it is hard to determine how successful we might be. We are relatively young, so there will be some lessons for us to learn. However, this team is committed to working hard and being successful.”
The midfield will be the foundation for MVNU’s success in 2004 with six of the team’s returning players back to play that position. Senior Brian Souder, juniors Jeffery Hinds and Shawn Morrison, and sophomores Stephen Reynard, Daniel Seiffert, and Seth Taylor are all back to play a key role. "I think we have a very solid midfield which will play a big part in determining just how well we do this season,” said Furey.
Souder, who missed the 2003 season with an injury, ranks eleventh in school history with 18 career assists, while Hinds is a two-time All-AMC South Division selection with 16 goals and 10 assists in his career. Morrison is the only returning player to have played in all 41 matches the past two years and is coming off his second straight summer of working with Athletes in Action. Reynard, Seiffert, and Taylor each contributed as freshmen in 2003 with Seiffert and Taylor both playing in all 18 matches, while Reynard saw action in 16 matches and finished second on the team with five assists. Sophomore newcomers Aaron Caluza and Matt Dennie will also add depth in the midfield.
Defensively, the Cougars lost three backs to graduation, but senior Jamie Hilen returns to help anchor the back line. Hilen, who was a National Christian College Athletic Association Honorable Mention All-American in 2002 and an AMC South Division Honorable Mention pick in 2003, has been a part of 25 shutouts in the past three years.
Morrison and Seiffert could join Hilen in the back as well as playing in the midfield, while junior Les Claxon and freshmen Matt Wilging and Ross Murdoch are all expected to compete for the starting spots. Claxon was named to the First-Knox Cougar Invitational All-Tournament Team and played in all 18 matches for MVNU in 2003, while Wilging was named to the All-District First Team as he helped Mansfield Christian High School post nine shutouts in 20 matches as a senior. Murdoch will join the team as soon as he arrives from Scotland, where he played at Clyde Valley High School. Sophomore Patrick Young and freshman Isaac Bush will also figure into the playing mix. Young played in four matches for the Cougars last year, while Bush was an All-Conference First Team selection as a senior at Mount Vernon High School.
"Despite losing three good defenders to graduation, I feel very good about the young players stepping in,” said Furey. "It may take some time, but they are very promising and are picking things up quickly.”
Sophomore goalkeeper Jordan Knight returns in goal for MVNU after posting a 1.27 goals against average and three shutouts in 2003 as he was named to the AMC South Division Second Team. He will be backed up by juniors Jarred Renner and Marcus Bierbaum. "Jordan did a nice job for us last year as a freshman, and he is only going to get better,” said Furey.
The Cougars’ offensive attack will be led by sophomores Josh Van Pelt and Jonathan Hoop and freshmen Ryan Farkas and Adam Pelak as all four players compete for playing time at the forward spots. Van Pelt was an NCCAA East Region Honorable Mention pick after recording four goals and two assists in 2003, while Hoop saw action in eight matches. Farkas was a two-time All-District selection at Northridge High School, where he set school records with 57 goals and 35 assists during his career. Pelak added 11 goals and 13 assists to earn All-Conference Second Team honors as a senior as he helped Brush High School to its fourth straight conference title. "We definitely have a youth movement up front, but they all possess the technical ability to score goals,” said Furey.
After finishing tied for fourth in the highly competitive AMC South Division and just missing out on the conference playoffs, MVNU will look to improve on their conference standing in 2004. The Cougars will play conference matches against the University of Rio Grande (the defending NAIA national champion who is the top-ranked team in the NAIA preseason poll), Tiffin University (NAIA #15), Cedarville University, Ohio Dominican University, Walsh University, Malone College, Shawnee State University, and Urbana University.
In addition to the conference schedule, MVNU will also play non-conference matches against Asbury, Bryan (Tenn.) College, Daemen (N.Y.) College, Ashland University, Kenyon College, Grace (Ind.) College, Moody Bible (Ill.) Institute, Heidelberg College, and Seton Hill (Pa.) University. The Cougars will also host the annual First-Knox Cougar Invitational on September 3-4 with Montreat (N.C.) College, Geneva (Pa.) College, and the University of Saint Francis (Ind.) rounding out the tournament field.
"The longer I coach the more I see the importance of having good kids in your program,” said Furey. "I believe we have a solid group of young men who will give it all they have, and that should make this season something exciting.”