NewsMVNU Soccer Team to Kick off Challenging Schedule
written by Dave Parsons, Sports Information Director
MOUNT VERNON, Ohio - As the Mount Vernon Nazarene University men’s soccer team prepares to kick off the 2006 season, no one can accuse head coach Paul Furey of trying to play an easy schedule.
The Cougars will begin their season on Friday at Judson (Ill.) College, which is ranked 14th in the NAIA preseason poll. That match is one of four matches slated against teams in the NAIA national poll that includes a non-conference game in Florida against top-ranked and defending NAIA national champion Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) College and a potential meeting with 19th-ranked Mid-Continent (Ky.) University, the defending National Christian College Athletic Association national champion, in the First-Knox Cougar Invitational. In fact, nine of MVNU’s 10 non-conference matches are against teams that are coming off winning records.
"This season should be an exciting one for us as we return 13 players including eight starters and have a quality recruiting class that we believe can help us right away,” said Furey, who enters his 17th season as the program’s all-time leader in wins with a 184-132-22 record. "I think that it is safe to say that this is the most challenging schedule in our program’s history. In light of our schedule, our goals are not going to be absorbed in numbers. We are going to try to find a way to beat top teams and compete with the best. In doing so, we hope we are in a position to be successful in November by having been prepared by quality competition.”
Leading the way for the Cougars on the offensive attack will be senior forwards Josh Van Pelt and Jonathan Hoop. Van Pelt, who was named to the AMC South Division First Team and the NCCAA All-American Team, led the AMC in assists per match (0.79) and points per match (2.26) and was third in goals per match (0.74) as he registered 14 goals, 15 assists, and 43 points in 2005. In 56 career matches, Van Pelt has scored 32 goals and registered 24 assists. Hoop added seven goals and one assist last year and now has 15 goals and six assists in his career. Senior Matt Dennie and sophomore Sheldon Tugman are also scoring threats off the bench and add depth to the attack.
"Josh is just one of those special players who brings an immense work rate and a desire to compete,” said Furey. "He is just a fun player to watch. As for Jonathan, I think that this could be his year. He is ready to play and his performance will have a big impact on our success this season. Matt and Sheldon are very different players in their style, but both bring an element of the game that will help us.”
Outside midfielders seniors Seth Taylor and Aaron Caluza and junior Adam Pelak are technically sound and crafty and provide quality outside play. Taylor had two goals and three assists last year, while Caluza finished with one goal and six assists. Pelak also contributed three goals and four assists. Inside midfielders sophomore Adam Worrall and freshman Scott Spangler provide great vision and poise in the middle and are both capable scorers despite being young. Worrall registered eight goals and four assists in his first college season, while Spangler was an All-Conference performer at Watkins Memorial High School. Freshman Chris Mast, who was an All-Ohio selection at Central Christian High School, has also shown great promise and will be a vital part of the midfield. "This is really a very sound midfield core,” said Furey.
The back line returns three starters in senior Daniel Seiffert and juniors Matt Wilging and Mike Pertz. They were a large part of the Cougars’ stingy defense that allowed just 23 goals in 19 matches and posted seven shutouts last year. Sophomore Zach Patterson has also worked hard and should fill the vacant fourth starting spot on the back line.
"We have some very good personnel on the back line,” Furey said. "If we play as a unit, then I think we will be tough to beat. Obviously, with our schedule, we will need a great defensive effort to be successful.”
Freshmen Brady Swanson and Tyler Warwick should add strength to the MVNU defense and provide quality minutes in their rookie seasons. Swanson was an All-Conference pick at Mount Vernon High School, while Warwick earned All-Conference honors at Marysville High School. Freshmen Kirby Claxon and Ben Winkler will also add depth to the defense after starring at South Webster High School and Bloom Carroll High School respectively. Junior Isaac Bush should see more action on the back line or in the midfield with his intense and high work rate.
Between the posts, the Cougars will be introducing four new faces with freshman Alex Stout and junior transfer Nick Bias battling for the starting goalkeeper position. Stout helped lead Watkins Memorial High School to a state championship in 2004, while Bias comes to MVNU after playing for two years at Notre Dame College that included a trip to the NAIA National Tournament. Senior Mark Brauen and freshman Dave Edinger also add plenty of depth to the position.
In addition to the Cougars’ non-conference schedule that includes games against Taylor (Ind.) University, Cornerstone (Mich.) University, Otterbein College, Kenyon College, Indiana Wesleyan University, Seton Hill (Pa.) University, and Southeastern (Fla.) University, MVNU will compete for the AMC South Division title. The University of Rio Grande, the defending champion who is ranked fourth in the NAIA preseason poll, headlines the list of title contenders, and the Cougars will also battle Ohio Dominican University, Cedarville University, Malone College, Walsh University, Tiffin University, Urbana University, and Shawnee State University for a shot at the conference crown.
"We have a great opportunity in October to go to the site of the NAIA National Tournament and play the defending champion,” said Furey of his team’s meeting with Lindsey Wilson that will take place at Embry-Riddle (Fla.) University. "We will see what happens this year, but I cannot imagine matching the intensity of this schedule in the years to come. This is one for the ages for our program, so we are going to make the most of it.”
"I just have a good feeling about this group and it really starts with their demeanor and approach to this season,” Furey added. "They have come together nicely to this point and I am confident that will continue. I like our leadership and I like the energy from the young players. Our chemistry is good. Now, it is time for us to get on to the field and see what happens.”