NewsExperienced Cougars Return to Attack New Soccer Season
written by Dave Parsons, Sports Information Director
MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - Coming off a 9-8-3 season in 2004 in which the team had only six returning upperclassmen, the Mount Vernon Nazarene University men’s soccer team will look to build off the experience gained during that season as the Cougars prepare to open the 2005 campaign.
With eight starters back and 17 players returning overall, MVNU has set high goals for itself despite a challenging schedule that looms ahead.
"There are a number of things I really enjoy about this group that make for a very promising year,” said head coach Paul Furey, who enters his 16th season with the Cougars with a 173-127-19 overall record. "We certainly have more overall experience and depth to this year’s team - two areas where we were lacking last season.”
"The players have worked hard in the off-season and have come into training camp focused and eager to compete,” Furey added. "I really like our demeanor and how things are coming together. The players have the proper mindset to be very successful and the work ethic to attain some lofty goals they have set for the season.”
The midfield will be the foundation for MVNU’s success in 2005 as it seems to have the most depth. Senior Jeffery Hinds will lead the way after registering eight goals and six assists despite being limited to just 13 matches due to injuries. Juniors Seth Taylor (3 goals and 4 assists) and Daniel Seiffert (1 assist) add stability and experience to the midfield along with junior Aaron Caluza (3 assists), who has developed into a vital playmaker. Junior Angelo Finelli, a transfer from Eastern (Pa.) University, adds depth in the middle as a solid distributor along with freshman Adam Worrall (Gahanna Lincoln H.S.), who plays with the composure of an upperclassman.
Adding to the mix on the outside is sophomore Adam Pelak (1 goal and 3 assists) and senior Les Claxon, who may move up from his defensive role to an outside midfield position. Freshman Zach Patterson (Dayton Christian H.S.) and versatile sophomore Kelsey Begin will also compete for roles in the midfield or on the back line.
Defensively, two starters return to anchor the back line in senior Shawn Morrison and sophomore Matt Wilging. Both play solid, stalwart defense and will support the addition of sophomore Mike Pertz, a transfer from the University of Akron who will help anchor the central back position. Seiffert is also a viable option on the back line. Junior Patrick Young and sophomore Isaac Bush may see some time on the back line as both bring a great work ethic to the team, while freshman Travis Balskey (Dayton Christian H.S.) will also battle for a defensive spot.
Junior Josh Van Pelt returns from a solid sophomore year in which he led the team with 14 goals and seven assists and was named a National Christian College Athletic Association Honorable Mention All-American. Quick, tenacious, and relentless, Van Pelt will be instrumental in the Cougars’ success again in 2005 as he looks to top last year’s scoring output. Junior running mate Jonathan Hoop (8 goals and 5 assists) could join Van Pelt up front adding agility and spontaneity. Junior Matt Dennie returns improved and will bring pace and a pesky scoring attitude. Furey could also push Hinds up front with the depth in the midfield or could look for freshmen Matt Lonsinger (Coshocton H.S.) or Sheldon Tugman (Old Harbour, Jamaica) to add a scoring threat. Sophomore Ryan Farkas (1 goal and 2 assists) could be a force up front, but will likely be a medical red-shirt.
Junior Jordan Knight returns in goal for the Cougars as a three-year starter and among the top goalkeepers in the AMC as he posted a 1.41 goals against average in 2004. Seniors Marcus Bierbaum and Jarred Renner will challenge the tenured keeper and are viable options for Furey between the posts.
After finishing seventh in the highly competitive American Mideast Conference South Division with a 2-3-3 mark that included draws with the University of Rio Grande and Tiffin University, the top two teams in the standings, MVNU will look to improve on their conference finish in 2005. The Cougars will play conference matches against Rio Grande (ranked fifth in the NAIA preseason poll), Tiffin, Ohio Dominican University, Cedarville University, Walsh University, Malone College, Shawnee State University, and Urbana University.
In addition to the conference schedule, MVNU will play non-conference matches against Manhattan Christian (Kan.) College, MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) University, Otterbein College, Daemen (N.Y.) College, Kenyon College, Taylor (Ind.) University, Myers University, and Saint Vincent (Pa.) College. The Cougars will also host the annual First-Knox Cougar Invitational on September 2-3 with Grace (Ind.) College, Campbellsville (Ky.) University, and Northland Baptist Bible (Wis.) College rounding out the tournament field.
"We have a lot of components corporately and individually to be a very good team this year,” said Furey. "Our conference will challenge us every time we step on the field. There are no automatic wins - each team is good - and we will need to compete fiercely to contend.”
"We are also playing two defending national champions this year in MidAmerica Nazarene and Northland Baptist along with Otterbein who played for the NCAA Division III national championship just a couple years ago,” added Furey. "We certainly have a challenging schedule, but I feel good about our chances with the group of guys we are putting on the field this year. You can count on us competing in every match and striving to do it with dignity, character, and class.”