Miller expects talented team to surprise people
By From staff reports
Published in Sports on August 29, 2012 1:50 PM
The bulk of the Mount Olive College men's soccer team is in the freshman and sophomore classes, and the challenge is getting that young talent to play at a high level.
Second-year Trojans' head coach Godfrey Miller thinks it can happen.
Miller brought in a 19-member class that encompasses not only quality programs in the United States, but also from 10 different countries in Europe and South America.
"I am very excited about the diverse talent of all of the new guys," Miller said. "They've got great energy and passion for the game. Everyone brings something unique to the field. I think it will be a great year for us.
"We have a very different look from last year year's team. We have added more speed on the attack and on our back line of defense. We have added some very skillful freshmen and a couple of transfers in every position on our roster."
Mount Olive's success, though, will depend on the experience of five returning seniors -- midfielder Ramon Gallardo, defender/midfielder Alex Rodriguez, midfielder Kelly Keaton, defender Muhammed Ceesay and defender Cort Harter. Gallardo and Rodriguez, a pair of three-year starters, combined for five goals and seven assists a year ago.
Keaton is the only other returnee who recorded a point.
Miller is looking for the quintet to help organize and stabilize a back line that yielded 55 goals, including seven successful penalty kicks, last season. They'll get assistance from JUCO transfer John Kwennah and freshman Alex Bosch.
"They bring a semester of experience to our very talented freshman class," Miller said.
Several first-year players will have an integral role in the Trojans' offensive third of the field. Miller anticipates Liberian native Emmanuel Wennah, Floridians Aldo Del Valle and Caleb Tierney, Pablo Galarza (Ecuador) and Daniel Stirland (England) to create scoring chances on goal.
Miller looks for the group to help improve upon an offense that recorded just 31 goals in 18 contests last season. MOC endured seven shutouts, including four straight in early September of 2011.
League coaches projected the Trojans to finish 10th in the preseason poll. Miller, at first, took offense to the lack of recognition. Then he realized that it could be a good thing that his team has been over-looked.
"Some of what we were missing last year has been added this year," Miller said. "We will be very exciting to watch and will surprise many (opponents) this season."
Mount Olive kicks off its 2012 season at home Thursday at 7 p.m. against in-state region foe UNC Pembroke. The Trojans are 8-6-0 in season openers since 1998.
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