MOC men's soccer preview
By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on August 29, 2004 2:00 AM
MOUNT OLIVE -- Competing?
Mount Olive men's soccer team had no problem with that last season -- playing in 15 games decided by one goal and eight overtime contests.
In this third year, Trojans' coach Jerry Riggs now has three players that have been with him all three years and returns 12 sophomores from last season's solid freshman class.
Mount Olive's roster is now 27-deep with versatility to boot.
So, what's next for the 2004 Trojans?
"We need the big win," Riggs stated. "My two years here, we have yet to have that great win or unexpected win. The ties we had, we were neck-and-neck with those programs. We didn't tie or beat someone who was ahead of us or was ranked in the region."
This season, Riggs feels like he has the talent and depth to possibly get that ground-breaking victory.
Mount Olive is young again, with a roster that primarily consists of sophomores and freshmen. Still, the 12 sophomores saw plenty of action last year and are battle-tested after last season's 7-9-4 campaign.
"It's been a learning curve. Every year I hope and I want to improve in my decision-making," Riggs said. "My first year I was dealt a deck of cards and had to play. Last year I recruited to fit the mold of what I wanted to establish. This year we added players to be at a consistent level.
"It's been fun, and I think I'm more relaxed now because I feel like I have the right cards in my hand."
One of four seniors on the Trojans' roster, Eastern Wayne graduate Cory Worrell returns from a 13-goal, four-assist year that landed him a second-team All-Carolinas/Virginia Athletic Conference selection last year. Worrell, the third leading scorer in the conference last season, will be joined up front by returnees Reid Clewis (junior), Justin Burch (senior) and Ryan Adamski (sophomore), the second-leading scorer last season. Adamski had 10 goals as a freshman.
Newcomers to the front include Swansboro High School products Bradley Carroll and Frank Stilley. Both were 30-plus goal scorers at Swansboro last year.
"Once they get this level of play figured out, they are going to be explosive players for us," Riggs said.
Returning in the midfield is sophomore and second-team all CVAC selection Eric Small, who led the team with five assists last season. Senior Warren Atkins is 100 percent this year, while Chris Jasso (sophomore), who was also injured last season, and Michael Fuhrer (senior) are back.
Riggs put special emphasis in recruiting up front and in the midfield this offseason as freshmen Matt Hobbs, Chris Varela and Adam Caston could all play vital roles. The key for Riggs will be finding the rotations that gel together.
"We brought in a lot of midfielders and forwards because it was obvious we could defend enough, but couldn't score goals to win those close games," Riggs said. "I want to take our game to a different level on the attacking side of it."
In the back, Mount Olive returns junior Ryan Brown and sophomores Charles Williams, Brandon Mills, Michael Garrett and Ryan Capedpon from a team that allowed just two goals per game on average against CVAC teams.
Riggs mentioned that freshman Jonathan Parker, from Franklinton High School, could push for time early.
Sophomore Jason Miller and freshman Chris Rousch are competing for the goalie spot this season, and Riggs believes both are capable in the net. Last season, Miller started six games and had 18 saves. Opponents averaged 1.38 goals per game against Miller.
Mount Olive gave up less than two goals per game overall last year.
Mount Olive, which went 2-5-3 in conference play last year, was picked to finish seventh in the CVAC preseason poll. The Trojans received 48 points -- one point behind sixth-place St. Andrews and two points ahead of eighth-place Anderson.
Last year's regular season champion, Queens, was picked first in the poll, followed by last year's tournament champion Lees-McRae.
Erskine, Pfeiffer and St. Andrews all have first-year coaches this season, while Belmont Abbey and Anderson have at least 15 new players on their respective rosters.
Riggs sees Queens, which has won four of the last five CVAC regular-season titles, as an obvious favorite. But he can foresee a tough race for the other seven conference tournament playoff spots, especially with the new faces on the sideline and on the field.
"I think from two on down, it is a dog-fight," he said. "Our goal is to finish in the top four, to host the first round of the tournament, and then let things happen. We are realistic in setting goals we can achieve and aim for.
"I figured we would be picked around there. It's better to go up than go down. I like being picked there because it's better to overachieve than underachieve."
A look at the preseason poll:
School, 1st place votes Points
1. Queens (9) 99
2. Lees-McRae (2) 91
3. Belmont Abbey 82
4. Barton 63
5. Pfeiffer 58
6. St. Andrews 49
7. Mount Olive 48
8. Anderson 46
9. Limestone 29
10. Coker 24
11. Erskine 16
The Trojans open up at home against non-conference foe North Greenville on Aug. 30, before traveling to Danville, Virginia to face Averett on Sept. 1.
Mount Olive is set to take on Guilford and North Carolina Wesleyan at the N.C. Wesleyan Classic in Rocky Mount Sept. 4-5. Mixed in with its CVAC schedule, the Trojans have home non-conference match-ups with Francis Marion and UNC-Pembroke. Mount Olive faces Methodist, Chowan and Newberry on the road.
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