11/01/05 — Mount Olive hoping for even more tournament success

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Mount Olive hoping for even more tournament success

Published in Sports on November 1, 2005 1:58 PM

On the heels of Halloween and the eve of the Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference Men's Soccer Tournament, the parallels between this year and last year for Mount Olive are spooky. Head coach Jerry Riggs the parallels translate into a repeat of the 2004 tournament.

No. 4 seed Mount Olive begins defense of its conference championship as the Trojans play host to No. 5 seed Pfeiffer in the first round of the 2005 CVAC Men's Soccer Tournament Wednesday at Trojan Field. Match time is 2 p.m.

Mount Olive (11-5-2 overall, 6-3-1 CVAC) finished the regular season Saturday with a 2-1 overtime loss at Barton. Reid Clewis scored his 10th goal of the season and extended his goal-scoring streak to three matches.

Clewis, a senior from Wilmington, scored what proved to be the game-winning goal in the Trojans' 1-0 victory over Belmont Abbey in the championship game of last year's CVAC Tournament. Clewis hopes he can finish his career with another championship.

"It would mean a lot to end my career with back-to-back titles," said Clews, a two-time CVAC Player of the Week winner this season. "I'd like to be able to end my career on a winning note."

Clewis is one of two seniors on the squad. Defender Ryan Brown admits the season hasn't quite gone the way the team, but says the team has a chance to end the season on a positive note.

"We didn't meet some of our goals, but this is one of our goals we can attain and that's what we're shooting for," said Brown, a senior from Jacksonville. "Hopefully, Reid and I can end our careers with a bang."

Mount Olive was ranked No. 1 in the Southeast Region and No. 7 in the NSCAA/Adidas National Top 25 after an 8-0-1 start and appeared to be in position for its first-ever NCAA II Tournament bid. The Trojans then suffered a three-match losing streak and have gone 3-5-1 during the second half of the season.

Despite a tough finish to the regular season, Riggs says the team has had a successful season thus far.

"We got off to a great start and then went through a rocky road, but we've still had a very good season so far," said Riggs, who is in his fourth year. "We've been in every match. Now we just need to refocus and work to defend our conference championship."

Riggs notes that his squad has outshot and even outplayed its opponent in a number of the losses, but didn't capitalize on opportunities.

"We've been creating opportunities all season long, but we've struggled with finishing the last part of the season," said Riggs. "The guys get frustrated, but they're still working hard. We just need to keep creating those opportunities and hopefully, the balls will start going in."

Mount Olive did capitalize on opportunities in the first meeting against Pfeiffer on September 21 as the Trojans won 8-0. Woody Stilley recorded his first collegiate hat trick and Mount Olive broke open a close game with six goals in the final 13 minutes. Pfeiffer played the entire second half a man down due to a red card.

Clewis says the team knows that the score of the first meeting is not indicative of how strong a team Pfeiffer is.

"We're definitely not going to underestimate Pfeiffer," said Clewis. "They were a man down and we were able to take advantage. If both teams are even, it's a much different game. We need to come out there prepared to work."

Pfeiffer (9-6-1, 6-4-0) finished the regular season with a 3-2 victory over Anderson Saturday. Cihan Nuhoglu's goal in the 42nd minute broke a 2-2 tie as the Falcons came from behind to win.

Mount Olive will need to make adjustments defensively going into Wednesday's match. Sweeper Brandon Mills picked up his fifth yellow card of the season Saturday against Barton and will have to sit out the first round. Brown says Mills' absence gives the team added motivation.

"Mills has been a force all year and losing him hurts," said Brown. "But I have great confidence in whoever Coach Riggs puts back there and I know we're all going to work hard. We all want Mills to have another game, especially since he missed last year's tournament. We don't want his season to end on a yellow card.

Mills was one of four Trojans who missed last year's tournament due to injury. Defender Michael Garrett and midfielders Erik Small and Ryan Adamski also missed the tournament because of injuries. Filling Mills' spot in the back with Brown and Ryan Capdepon will likely be Garrett or Charles Williams.

The Trojans also hope goalkeeper Chris Roush can repeat his MVP performance from last year's tournament. Roush posted two shutouts and a 0.31 goals against average in last year's tournament. His lone goal allowed came on a penalty kick and his save during a penalty kick shootout helped the Trojans advance past Queens in the semifinal round.

If Mount Olive wins Wednesday, the Trojans could face top-seeded Queens again in the semifinals, one of numerous similarities to last season at this time.

* Mount Olive enters the tournament with 11 wins and five losses for the second consecutive year.

* The Trojans tied for third place in the CVAC standings and are the No. 4 seed for the second straight year.

* Just as they did this year, the Trojans ended the 2004 season with a 2-1 loss on the road.

* For the second year in a row, Mount Olive's first round opponent is a team the Trojans defeated by at least seven goals in the regular season. (Mount Olive defeated Barton 7-0 in the 2004 regular season and played Barton in the first round of the tournament.)

* For the second consecutive year, the Mount Olive volleyball team has its home finale against the same school the men's soccer team is playing in the first round. The volleyball team hosts Pfeiffer Wednesday evening.

Riggs hopes all of the similarities work in his team's favor. But for the most part, he looks at the tournament as a new start for his team.

'It's the third part of the season and everybody is 0-0," said Riggs. "Everybody has the opportunity to play for something. We need to take advantage, have a good time and hopefully defend our championship."

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