NORFOLK, VA—The 2014 edition of the ODU Soccer Monarchs will be an equal blend of old and new as the No. 25 Monarchs open the season Friday night at 8 p.m. in Charlottesville against third-ranked Virginia, one of two NCAA semifinalists and five opponents ranked in the nation’s pre-season top 25 the Monarchs play this year.
“We are excited for the season to begin,” said ODU head coach Alan Dawson, beginning his 18th season. We have a lot of new faces and it’s a challenge trying to put the pieces together as well as who the pieces are. This is a group who lost a lot of leadership through graduation and we need our core group, particularly in the back, to step up and provide the experience and leadership we need on the pitch this season.”
The Monarchs return eight lettermen from last year’s 11-6-1 squad that finished second in their first season of Conference USA play and advanced to the NCAA second round. Under Alan Dawson, the Monarchs have advanced to the NCAA tournament four consecutive years and 10 of the last 12. Dawson (322-134-41) enters the season as the nation’s 13th winningest active NCAA coach.
The Monarchs lost four major cogs from last year’s squad in C-USA’s Offensive Player of the Year and second team All-American Tim Hopkinson (F, 12 gls, 4 asst.,28 pts), forward Gideon Asante (2 gls/1 asst.); All-C-USA defender Jason Gaylord (2 gls) and All-C-USA keeper Sean Stowe ( 1.32 GAA).
ODU returns eight key returnees including Ryan Condotta (Jr, MF); Skylar Hagan (Sr MF/D ); Geoff Hill (Jr. MF );Nick Hutchinson (So. F/MF); Ivan Militar (Sr. F ); Jesse Miralrio (So.F/C-USA All-Freshmen team), Michael Nelson (Jr/D ); Cole Stringer (Fr/MF/C-USA All-Freshmen team), Nate Foglesong (Sr./D). and Sidney Rivera (Sr, F).
On the back line, the Monarchs return senior Skyler Hagan, junior Michael Nelson and sophomore Nick Hutchinson who are joined by junior newcomer David Macsicza, while sophomore newcomer Alex Tiesenhausen will be in goal.
“We have a strong group with three of the four starting defenders returning,” said Dawson. “Alex Tiesenhausen is very good in goal and if we stay healthy, we should be fine, but we don’t have a lot of depth.” At midfield, ODU returns junior Ryan Condotta and sophomore Cole Stringer who started last year, along with senior Nate Foglesong
“Centrally we are strong with Condotta, and Stringer. Foglesong is very experienced as a fifth-year senior, so he knows what to do and how to get it done, said Dawson. Newcomer Stefano Barahona is a real footballer. He understands the game, his IQ on the pitch is off the charts. He just needs to develop physically, because he can help us right away.”
In the attack positions, the Monarchs lost a lot of goals in Hopkinson and Asante. Returnees include C-USA All-Freshman selection Jesse Milralrio, junior Geoffrey Hill, and Sidney Rivera. The Monarchs will look to newcomers in JuCO Josue Hernandez and graduate student Christian Schroer to step right in and add experience.
“I think we’ve got some talent, but there are some different pieces that are going to take some time for us to figure out and what the best personnel is and how to play them,’ said Dawson. “We need some goals. Sophomore Jesse Milralrio is key for us and hopefully he can step up and take some responsibility, as well as junior Geoffrey Hill who I think is ready as well. We lost Ivan Militar with an injury and with it some creativity. Rivera has worked really hard this summer and hopefully he can give us a boost upfront.”
“Hernandez has some good pace and attacking qualities to score some goals and Christian will bring a lot of experience as he has played at a high level and we expect both to be impact players, but we’ve got to give them some time to work with the other guys, adds Dawson.
There is quite a bit of depth upfront, but we haven’t quite figured it out. Newcomers like Tyler Edwards, has a big body and CJ Jones has tremendous athleticism. I am not concerned about the depth up front, but more concerned about getting it all right.”
In all, the Monarchs have added 12 newcomers to the roster. They are Stefano Barahona (Fr. MF, Pompton Lakes, NJ.); Christian Coulson (Fr. GK, Portsmouth, VA.); Tyler Edwards (Fr. F, Carrollton, GA. );Momodu Jalloh (Fr. F, Alexandria, VA.); Charles Jones (Fr. F, Fayetteville, NC.); Amir Najib (Fr. F, Ellicott City, MD.); Josh Toma (Fr. F, Cary, NC.); Garrett Walke (Fr. MF, Virginia Beach, VA.); Josue Henriquez (Jr. F, Mesa, AZ.); David Macsicza (Jr. D/ Dunajska, Slovakia);Alex Tiesenhausen (So. GK/Graz, Austria) and Christian Schroer (GS.F/Petershagen, Germany).
The Monarchs will play another strong schedule, opening the regular season Aug. 29 at No. 3 Virginia who advanced to last year’s NCAA College Cup semifinals while the regular season home opener is Sept. 5 against No. 22 North Carolina in the 38th annual Stihl Soccer Classic. (This year’s Stihl Classic will have a different format. Sept 5 with ODU hosting UNC and VCU hosting Northeastern and Sept. 7 with ODU hosting Northeastern , while VCU will host UNC.)
“This is a stiff beginning for us and arguably the strongest non-conference schedule we’ve had, “ said Dawson. “You start off on the road at No. 3 Virginia then come home and play North Carolina in the Stihl Classic before a rocking home crowd. It’s going to be a very exciting evening. I think in both occasions how we handle the situations is important. We have to be strong mentally and keep our emotions in check. It is certainly an opportunity to get our feet wet against quality opponents, but we can’t overlook South Florida and our old CAA rivals Northeastern, William and Mary, UNC Wilmington and VCU. Of course, C-USA is a beast of a league from top to bottom.”
ODU (No. 25), pre-season Conference USA favorite New Mexico (No. 5), who also reached last year’s NCAA College Cup semifinals and defending league tournament champion Charlotte (No. 23) are ranked in the NSCAA/Continental Tire NCAA Coaches Division I Men's Soccer preseason poll. UAB is among the teams receiving votes. The only conferences with more Top-25 teams than C-USA is the ACC (5), Big Ten (4) and Pac-12 (4). In all, the Monarchs will play five of the nation’s top 25 this season.
“The good news is a lot of these tough games are home, and if we can take care of business at home, then I think we can be okay. This could be a season where it might be tough early on, but I think if we stay the course we could be a good team when it counts,” notes Dawson.
The 2014 Conference USA Men's Soccer Championship will be hosted by Old Dominion, Nov. 12-16 at the Old Dominion Soccer Complex.