Mount Olive Men's Soccer Preview
By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on August 23, 2007 1:48 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- With 13 upperclassmen, 17 freshmen and a renamed newly-lit field, there is potential for plenty of bright moments for the Mount Olive College men's soccer team this season.
Mount Olive will officially rename Trojan Field to Ray and Chris Amon Field when the Trojans open their season at 7 p.m. on Friday in the Sleep Inn Classic against in-state foe Warren Wilson. The Amons' financial contribution helped purchase lights for the field.
"I'm a senior, so I've played here for three years without lights," forward Brad Carroll said. "One of my favorite things to do is play under the lights. I'm really excited about it.
"We've done two exhibition games under the lights and those were a lot of fun."
In preseason practices, fifth-year coach Jerry Riggs has seen his crop of incoming freshmen as well as returners compete for playing time. A wealth of talent and depth has left the Trojans skipper feeling confident about every player on his roster.
"With having young guys in the system and having a good returning group in the system, it makes things interesting and fun," Riggs said. "We have guys battling for positions and working hard. All 30 guys right now are battling for spots.
"We're deep in the goal, we're deep in the back, we're deep in the midfield and hopefully we have tons of guys that can score some goals."
Mount Olive had four players score five or more goals last season. Carroll, along with sophomore Adrian Daniels -- who led the club with seven goals in 2006 -- will once again look to share the wealth offensively and keep opposing defenses off balance.
"When you have multiple guys scoring goals it takes a lot of pressure off us," Daniels said. "There's not defenders just sticking with us the entire game and teams aren't marking us with two different guys. It just takes a lot of pressure off us when you know if you aren't the one scoring, somebody else will step up and do it."
The Trojans started their 2006 campaign in rocky fashion and won just four of their first nine games. However, they managed to claim nine victories in their final 12 outings, and advance to the semifinals of the Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference tournament.
Riggs hopes to rekindle that late-season fire and avoid another slow start.
"I can't go through what I went through last year," Riggs said. "We had the target on our back last year and it was very hard for us at the beginning. Winning nine out of the last 12 was huge for us and it turned our season around.
"Hopefully, we'll start out better this year and have a great ending."
With over half of Mount Olive's roster new to the program, the possibility for a drop off in team chemistry may affect some clubs. The Trojans, on the other hand, have bonded as a unit. The next step is displaying that camaraderie on the field during live matches.
"We went down to the beach for a week and there was 30 guys living in a house," Carroll said. "Everybody gets along well. I would have to say that since my freshman year this is the closest team that I've been on."
On the heels of a seventh-place finish in the conference and a 12-8 record a year ago, the Trojans have dreams of a strong showing in conference play and making a postseason run.
"We want to be in the top four in the league," Riggs said. "We want to maintain our status in the Southeast regional poll and be in the top 10. We want to put ourselves in a situation where at the end of the year we have a chance to get into the NCAA tournament.
"In men's soccer you don't have an automatic bid. It's basically the top four (in the region). You have 22 teams battling for four spots and we want to be in the hunt."
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