Camels picked 2nd in Big South men's soccer poll

2013 Campbell Men's Soccer Team
(Bennett Scarborough photo)
2013 Campbell Men's Soccer Team (Bennett Scarborough photo)

BUIES CREEK, N.C. – With nine starters returning from last year's squad that finished 12-5-2, Campbell has been picked to finish second in a pre-season poll of Big South Conference men's soccer head coaches.

Defending champion Coastal Carolina, ranked 14th nationally in the pre-season NSCAA rating, was picked first in the poll of 11 Big South coaches with 116 points and eight first-place votes.  Campbell (two first place votes) was second with 104 points, followed by High Point (87), Radford (86), Winthrop (85), Liberty (73), Gardner-Webb (50), Longwood42), Presbyterian (34), UNC Asheville (30) and VMI (19).

Coastal Carolina advanced to the third round of last year's NCAA College Cup and finished the 2012 campaign with a 20-3-2 record.  Coastal swept the Big South pre-season individual honors after Pedro Ribeiro was named attacking player of the year and Uchenna Uzo defensive player of the year.

"Being picked second is a compliment," said fourth-year head coach Steve Armas.  "However, where we are picked has no bearing on where we will finish.  Ultimately it will serve as a constant reminder where the other coaches in the conference feel we will be at the end of the season and provide us with the motivation to prove that our expectation is greater. We understand that with being picked second we will have a difficult challenge ahead.  We look forward to what the 2013 season has in store."

Campbell tied for third place in the 2012 Big South standings with a 7-3-0 league record and finished last season 2-2-1 against nationally-ranked clubs and 2-1-0 against members of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The Camels open the 2013 season at home Friday against NC State in a 7:00 p.m. kick-off.  Campbell has shut out the Wolfpack in each of the last two seasons.  In 2011, CU claimed a 1-0 victory in overtime at Buies Creek, before scoring a 2-0 triumph against the 17th-ranked Wolfpack last season in Raleigh behind goals from Bryce Miller and Ricki Gaez.

CU faced stiff competition in a pair of pre-season matches earlier this month.  No.-17 Wake Forest dealt the Camels a 2-1 setback on Aug. 17 in Buies Creek, and CU dropped a 3-1 decision last Saturday at George Mason.

Jhuvon Francis set up Isaiah Page's goal against Wake Forest.  Francis also drew the penalty that Justin Franz converted Saturday at George Mason.

Among CU's nine returning starters are six who have earned all-league honors in the past.  Senior keeper Ethan Hall was a second-team all-conference performer in 2012 after leading the Big South in save percentage (.788) and recording a 1.14 goals-against average with 7 shutouts.

Senior defender Travis Golden gained first-team Big South recognition last season, when he played 1708 of a possible 1750 minutes in the central defense.  Francis, a junior forward, earned second-team honors in 2012 after producing at least one point in four of Campbell's seven league victories. 

Franz, a senior midfielder, was an all-league choice in 2011 and has played in 56 games with 47 starts in his career.  He hit career highs for starts (18), minutes (1462) and points (9) last season.  Page was an all-freshman team selection in 2012 after he appeared in all 19 games with 9 starts and had four assists.  Gaez gained second-team all-league recognition from College Sports Madness in 2012 when he ranked fifth among Big South leaders in goals per game (0.42) after scoring 8 times in 19 outings.

Also back is reliable senior central defender Aleksi Tossavainen, who has started all 58 games over the past three seasons.  Senior right back Eduardo Rodriguez also returns after hitting career highs for matches played (19) and started (18) a year ago.  Junior forward Bryce Miller had 4 goals and 4 assists in 2012, his first season in a starting role.

NC State finished the 2012 campaign with a 10-10 overall record.  The Pack drew 1-1 with UNC Wilmington Saturday in pre-season play.

Campbell continues its two-game season-opening home stand on Tues., Sept. 3 when it faces Big South rival VMI. 

Big South Conference Men's Soccer Pre-season Poll
# School (1st) Points
1. Coastal Carolina (8) 116
2. Campbell (2) 104
3. High Point 87
4. Radford 86
5. Winthrop (1) 85
6. Liberty 73
7. Gardner-Webb 50
8. Longwood 42
9. Presbyterian 34
10. UNC Asheville 30
11. VMI 19