2002 Men's Soccer Outlook
Aug. 19, 2002
Coming off their second regular season Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) championship in three years, the Old Dominion University men's soccer program wants nothing more than to continue that success all the way into the CAA championship tournament and beyond. After reaching the semi-finals three years in a row the Monarchs have failed to bring home a championship. However, this year's team brings with them more experience, firepower, and ten highly touted newcomers to hopefully lead ODU to its first CAA crown since 1991. The men's soccer team has clearly risen to the top of the CAA, losing only one regular season CAA game in the past three seasons, including an undefeated CAA campaign in 2001. Now they are ready to take their game to the next level and become a national force.
"We feel like we can play with any team in the country, we have no doubts about that. We are coming off a very productive spring and are heading into the season with plenty of momentum. It is just a matter of can we win those big games, just playing and competing with those teams isn't enough." says head coach Alan Dawson.
All-American candidate and 2001 CAA Player of the Year Attila Vendegh (Bratislava, Slovakia) is back to lead the Monarchs on offense. The junior has already racked up numerous awards and all-star selections and is attempting to break the ODU mark for career goals in only his third season in Norfolk. He has scored 30 goals so far and only needs seven to break the ODU career mark of 36, set by Sean Crowley in 1985-88. He has also provided nine assists to move his points total to 69, a number that is sure to increase. Vendegh is just one of ODU's scoring threats as sophomore Kyle Hartley (Va. Beach, VA) and junior college transfer Michael Goncalves (Alexandria, VA) will provide ample support for Vendegh. Hartley played in 11 games last season scoring one goal and will use that experience to solidify the dangerous Monarch frontline. Goncalves will provide a physical presence up front and will be a weapon ready to fire at any scoring opportunity.
"Everything is setup for us to have a productive offensive season. We have good support for Attila and we should be able to put up some good numbers on the board," says Dawson.
Newcomer Adnan Fazlic (Richmond, VA) is a versatile performer who will push for a spot and be a contender for time all season long.
The Monarchs feature a deep midfield with a good mix of experience, talent, versatility, and youth. Seniors Ben Cummins (Queensland, Australia) and Brandon Baker (Parker, CO) will take care of the leadership role as they take charge of this group and control the flow of the game. Cummins had four assists last season in 16 starts on his way to earning second team All-CAA recognition. Baker competed in 16 contests with eight starts and one assist last season. Junior Michael Tooley (Richmond, VA) was second on the team in points last year and will again add offensive power in the middle. Ryan Sniegoski (Boxborough, MA) and sophomore Kevon Harris (Kingston, Jamaica) will fight hard for playing time and will be important parts of this season's squad. Sniegoski recorded two assists last season while Harris scored two goals with four assists in 14 starts. Each of these players will work hard for a spot and create stiff competition.
"We have plenty of good supporting players in the middle and that will make for great competition for playing time. No matter who is in there we expect a productive year from the group," says Dawson.
Behind these players is a gifted set of newcomers who will no doubt be in the mix immediately. Freshman Gianni Cimini (Ontario, Canada) should contribute right off the bat and be a force for many years. He is technically sound and brings solid skill and ability to the Monarch midfield. Also, freshman Brian Cvilikas (Highland Ranch,CO) and Bamidele Oluwalana (Oslo, Norway) are coming from great backgrounds with successful careers and will give the team more size and versatility.
The Monarch backfield is loaded with talent and experience. This year's defense will feature All-CAA team selectee and honorable mention Freshman All-American Trevor McEachron (Woodbridge, VA) and senior leader Anders Haugom (Gjovik, Norway). McEachron split time last season on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball and will use his size and athletic ability to help stop opposing offenses this year. Haugom has started every one of ODU's games in his career except for one. He is considered one of the most tenacious defenders in the CAA and will be ready to lead in his senior campaign.
Sophomores Ian Kaila (Fredericksburg, VA) and Belus Vendegh (Bratislava, Slovakia) will also be in the back with Haugom and McEachron. Kaila is coming off a freshman campaign that saw him start all 17 games while Vendegh saw action in 13 games, making four starts as a freshman. They will solidify the Monarch D to hopefully improve on their four shutouts from a season ago.
Sophomore Brian Kluckman (Springfield, VA) will help freshman Kyle Newcomer (Woodbridge, VA), Sven Wesenberg (Hammersbach, Germany), and Chris Tinsley (Va. Beach, VA) provide much needed depth at the back position.
The goalie position for Old Dominion is wide open. Junior Samuel Cameron (Raleigh, NC) and sophomore John Connelly (Rockville, MD) will compete with each other for starting spots and playing time. The more experienced Cameron had two starts last season making four saves with a 2.14 GAA as a backup. But Connelly has trained well and worked hard to see time between the pipes.
"At this point there is no clear cut choice for starting goalie. They are both skilled competitors and will play hard for us. We need to take a long hard look to determine who is better for the team," says Dawson.
Schedule and Outlook
The schedule that awaits the ODU men's soccer team in 2002 is unprecedented in the history of the program. Never have the Monarchs had to face such stiff competition so consistently throughout their season.
"This season's schedule is definitely the toughest this program has ever seen. But to be the best we have to compete with the best. The team from last season only lost two seniors and we added nine guys who will push for spots this year. We will just have to take one game at a time and stay focused on our season goal," says Dawson.
The Monarchs kick off the 2002 campaign by welcoming Va. Tech and Wake Forest to town. These squads represent just two of the many possible top 20 teams that ODU will face this year. The other non-conference big matches take place away from Norfolk, as they will travel to play Rutgers and St. John's, a 2001 Final Four participant, in the Rutgers Tournament, and then make visits to Virginia and Penn State. On October 13th-15th they face two excellent opponents in Georgia St. and Coastal Carolina as part of the annual 2002 ODU Stihl Soccer Classic. They close out their tough schedule with a difficult match-up at William and Mary before beginning competition in the CAA Championships on Nov.13th-17th at the Virginia Beach Sportsplex.
"We are concentrating on the game against Va. Tech and not looking beyond that. That game will identify who we are and hopefully give us the momentum we need to maintain a high level of competition throughout the season," says Dawson.
No matter how difficult the competition will be for ODU in 2002, they will be prepared to battle. The squad is hungry to compete and carry over their success from last year. They have already proved competitive at the conference and regional level, now it is time for the Monarchs to take their game to the national scene.
"We are all extremely focused and the players are eager to get back on the field. We have a great system in place that we haven't had before and all our boys feel good about themselves. We just have to get out there and get it done."