Carson-Newman Prepared for More Success in 2009
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. -- Coming off its sixth consecutive trip
to the NCAA Tournament, the Carson-Newman men's soccer team is
hungry for even more in 2009.
The Eagles open the season on Thursday at St. Andrews Presbyterian College in Laurinburg, N.C. With a wealth of experience returning from last season's 11-5-2 squad that won a share of the South Atlantic Conference regular season title, Eagle head coach Allen Vital believes the pieces are in place for another special season in Mossy Creek.
"We return a good group of players from last year, so naturally we are going to build upon the success of last season," said Vital, who enters his 13th season at C-N. "But we also have quite a few new players on the squad, and you've got to bring those guys up to speed. I think our preseason has been going well, and we are looking forward to the season."
The Eagles will have to grind through another difficult schedule, which includes three participants from last year's NCAA Tournament and three consecutive road matches to open the season. Vital said things won't get much easier when his squad reaches conference play.
"The competition will be very challenging in the South Atlantic Conference," he said. "There are several teams that I think will be in a good position to challenge for the regular season championship, so we know that there is going to be some competition. But I believe we are ready for it."
Leading the way for C-N this season will be senior forward Omar Cooke (Roanoke, Va.) and junior defender Matthew Finlay (Liverpool, England). Both Cooke and Finlay were named captains in the spring and are both preseason first team All-SAC selections.
Cook, a three-time all-conference performer, dished out one assist and tallied five goals for the Eagles last season, while Finlay anchored a C-N defense that produced five shutouts and held opponents to a SAC best 18 goals on the season.
"They have the experience and the leadership that we are looking for, and I think that these guys are already making a mark with the newcomers and with the team in general," Vital said. "We are going to certainly have good leadership with those two."
Sophomore forward Robert Hill (Middlesbrough, England) and junior goalkeeper Jordan Moore (Hendersonville, Tenn.) join Cooke and Finlay as preseason first team All-SAC selections.
Hill led the Eagles in goals scored last season with 13 and tallied at least one goal in 11 out of C-N's last 13 matches. Moore recorded 64 saves in 17 starts and led the conference in goals against average (0.94) and save percentage (.810).
"We hope (Hill) will pick up where he left off last year," Vital said. "He had a great freshman season and has came in prepared this preseason. We expect it to be a good partnership between him and Omar again."
Senior midfielder Everardo Flores (Silver Spring, Md.) also received preseason All-SAC honors as he was named to the second team.
"(Flores) has also been a key player and has always been very consistent for us," Vital said.
Seniors Jorge Lopez (Woodbridge, Va.) and Darren Hulem (Derwood, Md.), junior Gustavo Jimenez (Alpharetta, Ga.) and sophomore Anthony Chiappetta (Morristown, Tenn.) will all return with experience at defender for the Eagles.
Junior Ben Backstrom (Knoxville, Tenn.) will join Cooke and Hill at the forward position, while junior Richard Marquetty (New York, N.Y.) and sophomore Josh Earl (Hendersonville, Tenn.) are expected to contribute as midfielders.
The Eagles will also have an abundance of youth, as 12 freshmen will compete for significant playing time this season. C-N's recruiting class is made up of five East Tennessee products, including Matt Craine (Morristown, Tenn.), Taylor Jolley (Morristown, Tenn.), Daniel Zitt (Morristown, Tenn.), Adam Thomas (Morristown, Tenn.) and Justin Price (Dandridge, Tenn.).
Patrick Brooks (Asheville, N.C.), Jared Prall (Mt. Juliet, Tenn.), James London (Jacksonville, Fla.), Daniel Tackling (Norwich, Conn.), Eric Roberson (Ormond Beach, Fla.), Cody Loggins (Brentwood, Tenn.) and Will Ashby (High Point, N.C.) round out the Eagles' signing class.
"I look at the locker room and we have quite a few young faces, which is a good thing," Vital said. "We've got a long time with these guys, and it's a talented group with a lot of ability."
"Several of them are from our area, which I think is great for our program to have so many players that are just down the road from us. Hopefully, we can use that to attract more soccer fans from our area. We are excited about that of course."