VIDEO: Matt Carr Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. -- This is the final installment in a three-part series highlighting each of the Carson-Newman men's soccer positions for the 2018 season. Assistant coach Matt Carr closes out the previews will a look at the defenders and goalkeepers.
The Eagles are a season removed from having a strong defensive team that garnered nine clean sheets during the 2017 campaign, eight of those resulting in shutout victories. Thanks to those wins, Carson-Newman now has 144 shutout victories in program history. The stout attacking unit led the South Atlantic Conference in shutout percentage at .500, a clip that was good enough for 15th in the nation.
During the nine-game span, the Eagles kept their opposition from getting a ball into the back of the net for nearly 764 minutes of play. That opponent scoreless streak marks the longest in program history, surpassing the previous record of five games which was achieved by the 2006 team.
"Obviously, the standard has been set very high from last season and we expect the same if not more, we really do expect a bit more, from this group just because of the experience," Carr said.
Senior Samuel Jenkins (Bicester, England) leads the group of defenders this year after being the co-captain last year. He has started in 30 of his 33 games with Carson-Newman.
At the conclusion of his second season with the Orange and Blue, Jenkins was named a first-team All-SAC player, the first conference accolade of his career. He was also named a D2CCA All-Southeast Region Second team member.
Joining him in the list of returners will be Leon Mattig (Wettenberg, Germany), Daan Smit (Drenthe, Netherlands), James Coady (Franklin, Tenn.), Joshua James (Corryton, Tenn.) and Gabe Martin (Corryton, Tenn.).
As for the newcomers to the unit, head coach Stephen Lyons and his staff welcome Mitchell Gutteridge (Reading, England), Drew Bridge (Salisbury, England), Kensho Yoshikoshi (Japan), Ryan Lombardo (Cookeville, Tenn.) and Ben King (Hertfordshire, England).
In front of the net, Twan Verweij (Utrecht, Netherlands) was one of the strongest keepers in the conference with a league-leading 8.1 shutouts on the year and an 8-7-1 record. He now sits at fourth on the program's individual season records list and sixth on the career records list. He also landed on the All-SAC Honorable Mention list at the conclusion of the season with an AstroTurf SAC Player of the Week accolade back on Oct. 2, 2017.
"Twan is a great professional," Carr assessed of the senior. "Last year, he's got that experience so kind of going into his senior year as a grad student for him, really pushing himself on. It's sort of our goal is can he get to that 10 shutout mark; that's sort of our new mark for him."
The senior made 52 saves last season, placing him at 10th on the career records list, 26 saves behind teammate Joe Boyd (Nottingham, England). Heading into his third year with the Eagles, Boyd has made 16 starts in 18 matches with 3.2 shutouts along the way. He currently holds an 8-7-1 record in his career.
"(McNew and Meschendorf) have come into camp and done extremely well," Carr added. "Fitness is pretty good, but there's always something to work on. But, they're willing, the attitude, everything, the commitment has been second to none," Carr added.
As a whole, the focus this season for the entire defensive unit remains in maintaining a strong attacking presence during the entirety of the season. With more depth added into the back end of the field, the competition for playing time will be high.
"Some players are coming in that are going to push some of the players that started last year," Carr remarked. "With a group of 32 or so, it's going to be very challenging and very competitive day in, day out."
The Carson-Newman men's soccer season will kick-off on Sept. 1 with a roadtrip to Clayton State. That match is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.