2003 Men's Soccer Season Preview
Aug. 13, 2003
In 2002, the Old Dominion men's soccer team rewrote the program's record books en route to the best finish in school history. As a team, the Monarchs reached the second round of the NCAA College Cup for the first time ever, earning their first ever NCAA Division I Tournament victory with a 3-0 win over Richmond at home in the first round. Individually, rising senior Attila Vendegh (Bratislava, Slovakia) became the most prolific scorer in school history as he broke the record for most career goals and most career points last season. In 2003, the Monarchs will look to continue the momentum from last season in its quest to earn the team's first ever back-to-back trip to the NCAA Tournament.
After facing the toughest schedule in the history of the program, Old Dominion finished the 2002 campaign with a 10-9-1 record, the third time since 1999 that head coach Alan Dawson has led his team to double digit victories. ODU competed against seven nationally ranked teams last season and earned three victories, including two (VCU and Hofstra) in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). This season the Monarchs boast six returning starters and a recruiting class rated among the nation's best as they again face a challenging schedule.
"We have high expectations this season. We are returning a solid core of players and have some guys coming in that we feel confident will step right in and be successful. The tournament last season was an invaluable experience and now the rest of the country knows we can compete at the highest level," explained Dawson.
The two-time CAA Player of the Year, Attila Vendegh, will once again lead the Monarch offensive charge this season. Vendegh, a three-time Honorable Mention All-American shattered the Monarch records books as he now holds the school record for most goals (46) and most points (108). He led the team last season with 16 goals and seven assists and tallied three game-winning goals.
Working up front with Vendegh will be a talented and experienced group of returners, senior Michael Goncalves (Alexandria, VA), junior Kyle Hartley (Va. Beach, VA) and sophomore Brian Cvilikas (Highlands Ranch, CO). Goncalves transferred in last season and was tied for second on the team with seven points, recording two goals and three assists. Hartley fought through a preseason injury to see action in 18 contests, scoring two goals with one assist. Cvilikas stepped up in his rookie season last year to also post two goals, playing in 17 games with five starts.
"We are very excited about who we have in place up front and are confident in what they can produce for us. Attila (Vendegh) has had a terrific attitude heading into his senior season as he pushed himself to a new fitness level in the offseason. He is excited to get on the field and has a great opportunity to show what he can do on a national level. We are also confident in Michael Goncalves and Brian Cvilikas in that we know they have a better understanding of how to play at this level, and Kyle Hartley is as healthy as he has ever been," added Dawson.
Newcomers Ross Mackenzie (Richmond, VA), Kevin McMenamin (West Springfield, MA) and John McClain (Denver, CO) form a talented and experienced group and will fight to see time all season.
The Monarch midfield returns an athletic and competitive group and will have several talented rookies looking to make an immediate impact. Junior Kevon Harris (Kingston, Jamaica) is back and is ready to be the leader in the middle after an injury-riddled 2002 campaign. In nine starts last year he recorded a team second-best four assists and is set to be an offensive force again this season. Senior co-captain Ryan Sniegoski (Boxborough, MA) will also provide leadership in the middle after competing in 14 contests last year with 10 starts.
Junior Belus Vendegh (Bratislava, Slovakia) and sophomores Gianni Cimini (Ontario, Canada) and Bamidele Oluwalana (Oslo, Norway) were important parts of last year's squad and will once again be impact players. Vendegh started all but one game in 2002 and tallied his first career goal while Cimini and Oluwalana played in a combined 32 games with each scoring a goal. Sophomore Ado Fazlic (Richmond, VA) will look to build on his experience as a rookie last year to become a larger factor this season.
The midfielder incoming class includes Gregg Mottinger (Carrollton, TX), Mat Wilkinson (Newcastle, Australia), Walston Ferrell (Fayetteville, NC) and Josh Hill (Va. Beach, VA). Wilkinson and Hill come to ODU with international playing experience and should provide immediate help in the middle. Mottinger and Ferrell are confident freshmen who will add youth and depth to a quick Monarch midfield.
Juniors Trevor McEachron (Woodbridge, VA) and Ian Kaila (Fredericksburg, VA) are the anchors of the one of the most talented defenses in the region. McEachron, the 2003 team captain, started all but one game last year on his way to earning All-South Atlantic Region honors. Kaila has started 36 games in his first two years at ODU and helped the Monarchs hold nine opponents to one goal or less last season. Another returning starter in the backfield is junior Brian Kluckman (Springfield, VA). Kluckman is coming off a career year in which he finished second on the team with three goals and made 12 starts.
Redshirt freshman Kyle Newcomer (Woodbridge, VA) will help solidify the ODU defense and provide leadership to the incoming freshman.
Freshmen Eric Hoglund (Fairfax, VA) and Justin Monroe (Disputanta, VA) join the Monarchs this season and will push for time as they gain collegiate experience.
Senior Sam Cameron (Raleigh, NC) enjoyed a successful 2003 campaign in which he came into his own as the Monarch leader between the pipes. Cameron started 17 times and posted a team-best 1.43 goals against average (GAA) with an 80% save percentage. He led the team to four shutouts, including the 3-0 win over Richmond in the NCAA first round matchup.
Redshirt sophomore John Connelly (Rockville, MD) earned three starts as a rookie last year and worked hard this past offseason and will compete to see plenty of time in net for the Monarchs this season. Redshirt freshman Michael Hurley (Freeport, NY) is ready for his first full season with the team and will also work to see time in goal this year.
Schedule and Outlook
The Monarchs will once again play one of the toughest schedules in the nation. Old Dominion starts off the season playing four top ranked teams in their first six games before competing in one of the deepest conferences in the country.
ODU hosts St. Francis to open the year before traveling to face national powers California and Stanford in the Cal Berkeley Tournament. Stanford has been in the NCAA Soccer Cup Final Four the past two seasons and California is a consistent Top-10 squad. The Old Dominion Stihl Classic is the following weekend and the Monarchs will host regional foes American and Longwood this year. The tournament streak continues when they travel to Williamsburg, VA to take part in the William and Mary Tournament. The Monarchs face Wake Forest in the first game before taking on Marshall. ODU has faced Wake Forest three times in the past two seasons, including the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season. They close out their non-conference slate against UMBC and Campbell and then host UNCW to start the conference schedule. The Monarchs also welcome VCU, an 8th seed in last year's NCAA Soccer Cup, Towson and Delaware to the ODU Soccer Stadium and finish the season at conference rival William and Mary. The 2003 CAA Tournament begins on November 11.
"It is important that we get out to a determined and focused start. We again face a tough beginning to our season but that will only help us better prepare for conference play. We are looking forward to hosting the ODU Stihl Soccer Classic once again this year and feel that it will be a highly competitive and exciting weekend of soccer. Our conference enjoyed a successful year last season with three teams earning NCAA bids. The conference teams are only stronger this season and we will have to play every game hard and take them one at a time," added Dawson.
The 2003 version of the Old Dominion soccer team is prepared for another winning season. The team will be looking to maintain the high level of play from a year ago as they continue to improve and become one of the nation's consistently elite soccer programs.
"We set the bar high last year so we have to go out and reset it even higher this season. We have the deepest and one of the most talented squads I have had here but we have to go out and put it together on the field. Everyone is excited and anxious to get the season started and I believe we are ready to compete at a higher level in 2003," said Dawson.