Q&A with Men's Soccer head coach Steve Armas
After a successful 17-year run in the Atlantic Sun Conference, Campbell University returned to its roots in 2011 by re-joining the Big South Conference.
A charter member of the Big South, Campbell produced 4 league tournament titles and 3 runner-up finishes in its previous10-season tenure in the league (1984-93).
Under the direction of second-year head coach Steve Armas, Campbell left the A-Sun as one of the top programs in that league, claiming four trophies over the past six years.
Now the Fighting Camels seek to continue that measure of success in their Division I home, the Big South, a league in which all 11 members are located within the Carolinas and Virginia.
Question: You are entering your second year in charge of the Campbell men's soccer program, what lessons did you learn from your first season as head coach?
Armas: I have learned how important it is to develop a team concept amongst all players early on. In order for the team to be successful this year, there needs to be an understanding amongst all players that we are best when we come together and lean on each other's strengths.
Q: Campbell is returning to its Division I roots this fall by re-joining the Big South Conference. How will this positively impact the men's soccer program?
Armas: The hope for our program will be that given the proximity of our conference opponents, we will develop rivalries and create a stronger fan base with the student body. It will also allow our student-athletes the ability to become more successful in the classroom. It is my hope that with less travel and less classes missed it will allow for our players to not get behind and stay current with their studies.
Q: High Point ran the regular season table (8-0) in the Big South last year, only to lose to Coastal Carolina in the league tournament final. Which teams do you see as the teams to beat in the Big South, and where do the Camels stack up against the league's elite?
Armas: I believe you have to look at the teams that were successful from the year before. Regardless of who has graduated or is not there, you have to believe that those teams will put out a similar or better product the following year. Both High Point and Coastal Carolina know winning and are experienced in winning the conference and conference tournament.
Q: On what areas will you and your staff focus before the Big South opener Sept. 28 at home against Radford?
Armas: We will have played 10 games prior to our opener versus Radford. I hope that to strengthen all aspects of play leading to that game. The competitive schedule that we have will test our team, mentally and physically in hopes to be prepared for Big South league play.
Q: You've once again assembled a challenging non-conference schedule, with dates against the likes of N.C. State, Virginia Tech, Charlotte, Davidson, Elon, Furman, Loyola, UNC Wilmington, Hartford and Wofford. How would you describe your scheduling philosophy?
Armas: Part of the philosophy is that we look to find and compete against the best teams that will play us. It gives our program some exposure to other strong programs and gives the players opportunities to test themselves every week. Regardless of the result, we hope to grow as a group and continue to develop and demand more from one another. We will look back and pull from the experiences in tough times to give us momentum in conference play and late in the season.
Q: Despite having only two seniors on your 2011 squad, do you feel like you have an experienced team heading into the season, given the fact that CU freshmen have made 106 starts over the past two years?
Armas: I feel that we have a good balance. We have two seniors and four juniors that know the feeling of winning in conference play. We have a sophomore class that as freshmen played significant minutes. Mix in two transfers with college experience and that gives the team many different experiences to pull from. Nine freshmen with high expectations and confidence gives the group a unique edge that I hope will allow us to be versatile and competitive.
Q: From 2005-08, Campbell won nearly 80 percent (27-7) of its home games. However, over the past two years, the Camels compiled an 8-9-1 record at the Eakes Complex. What are the keys to the 2011 team once again making its home field a daunting place for opponents to visit?
Armas: Fan support. Given the tough schedule, away games will prepare us and perhaps when we return home we will have a deeper appreciation for a home field advantage. We hope to make Eakes a great venue to watch entertaining soccer matches in an exciting atmosphere.
Q: With nine players who started double-figure games returning from last year's squad, who do you view as key contributors from your veterans?
Armas: We will look to the veterans for experience, for leadership and patience. Returning we have three all conference players, Mitchell Cardenas, Ben Iiames, and Justin Franz. We will certainly look to these players to guide us.
Q: Which newcomers do you expect to make an impact this season?
Armas: With such a strong group of newcomers it will be hard to single out any specific individual. I expect that this group will not be any different than past teams in regards to impact, contributions, and making their own mark within the team this season. We have improved in every position. The team seems to have a more focused competitive feel. The newcomers have increased the competition in every spot. As a staff we feel we have tough decisions ahead in choosing a starting line up.