Aug. 8, 2007
Although Clemson lost six starters to graduation off its 2006 team that reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament, optimism is high heading into 2007.
“Anytime you lose six starters, that is a significant loss,” said Clemson Head Coach Trevor Adair who will be entering his 13th season at Tigertown. “But, this gave six players in the spring an opportunity to fill these holes. We had a productive spring. We developed great chemistry on and off the field.
“We are a blue-collar team with no stars. With this excellent group of players, we are looking to build from last year, especially within the conference. We need to prove ourselves, and with this team’s attitude, I think we will not be disappointed.
The Tigers have 19 letter winners returning from a team that finished with a 13-5-2 record before losing to eventual Final Four team UCLA in Los Angeles. The Tigers won their first eight matches and were ranked number-one in the nation at one point in the season. Clemson finished ranked ninth in the NSCAA poll, the second consecutive season that the Tigers finished in the top 10. It marked the fifth time Adair has taken Clemson to a top 10 final ranking.
“There have been several players on the squad waiting in the wings, and they came through in the spring. Couple that with a good recruiting class that contains players that could easily start and see significant playing time and the holes will be filled,” continued Adair who is only six wins shy of 200 career victories.
“The biggest key is how quickly they come together. The blue-collar work ethic will be the strength of this team. The biggest question will be how quickly our veterans and freshmen come together and form as a unit.
“In terms of recruiting, we had one of the best classes we have had since I’ve been at Clemson. We have high profile players such as Eric Cava, Tommy Drake, Sam Petrone, and John Tardy, all players who are considered to be top 25 recruits. They still have to make the adjustments in practice and in games. We have covered all of the holes with this recruiting class.
The Tigers, as always, will face a difficult schedule. Ear in an year out the ACC places the most teams in the NCAA Tournament and it prepares the Tigers for the postseason. “As always, we have a very tough schedule. The ACC is again stacked with quality teams. Every game is a battle. Our non-conference schedule will be very challenging both home and away.
Adair is confident his roster of hard workers will be successful in 2007. “When looking at our roster, we may not have a lot of superstars or name players as of yet. However, we have a hard working blue-collar team that will work together. When you have that, you can accomplish a lot.
“The bottom line is that we know how to play. Our players come from great programs. The veterans know what is expected of them. We have great leadership with Mark Buchholz and Havird Usry–the team is in good hands there. This is the best group of kids as far as chemistry and a willingness to be coached that I have ever had.”
Goalkeeper Clemson has two goalkeepers returning this season, keepers who will try to replace All-American Phil Marfuggi. Joseph Bendik (SO) started four matches last season and played in six games overall. He had a 0.82 goals allowed average and finished with 11 saves. Scott Rosman (SO) is the other letterman returning. JD Spearman from Summerville, SC is an incoming freshman.
“In the Spring, Bendik and Rosman continued to show improvement. J.D. Spearman will provide depth as a freshman and may possibly red-shirt. Having depth here promotes improvement. I feel as if we are solid in goal.”
DefendersClemson has two starters returning in the back, featuring Greg Eckhardt (SO) and Havird Usry (SR). Eckhardt started 17 matches last season and Usry had 15 starts. Usry will probably be moved to the right side. Newcomer John Tardy from Staten Island, NY will be given a look on the left. Tardy is very tenacious and gives Clemson balance on the left side.
Jeff Routh (SO) and Parker Rogers (SO) are both versatile players and can play anywhere in the back. Greg Burna (SR) and Emmanuel Twum (SO) will also see playing time on the outside back position.
David Newton had a tremendous spring and will be a strong candidate for starting as a central defender. According to the coaching staff, he is an imposing player both defensively and in attack.
“In the back we have numbers and experience. Going into the fall, one of the first things we will do is to identify the back four as soon as possible and those that will play together best as a unit,” said Adair.
MidfieldIn the midfield, Mark Buchholz return for their senior seasons. Poe had the game winning goals in the Maryland and North Carolina matches last year, teams that were ranked in the top five in the nation at the time of the match. He had four goals and three assists for 11 points last season.
Buchholz started all 20 matches and had four goals and six assist for 14 points. He will be in his fourth year as a starter in the midfield and has already been a starter on a pair of Sweet 16 teams, including the Final Four team of 2005. In addition to serving as a starter on the Clemson soccer team, he is also the starting placekicker on the Tiger football team. He is the first Clemson athlete in 25 years to play football and soccer at the same time. “We are looking for leadership and guidance from Mark. He needs to impose himself greater on the field.,” said Adair.
Bryson Moore (JR) is also a returning starter as he played in 18 matches and started 15 last fall. He also finished the season with three goals and two assists for eight points. Also, Paulo Bonfim (SO) had a very strong spring and will challenge for a starting role in the central midfield area. Bonfim played in eight matches last year. David Bell (SR), Eric Cava (FR) , Twum, Burana and John Tardy (FR) could see significant time on the flanks. Nathan Thornton (SO) Tate Parrish (SR) and Tyler Williams (FR) are expected to challenge for playing time as well.
“I feel as if we are covered as far as depth at the midfield. This group will feature a lot of speed. We have many different options and combinations in this area.”
ForwardsClemson will be inexperienced up front. The Tigers must replace the scoring combination of Dane Richards and Frederico Moojen, who scored 22 goals between them last year and were both among the top goal scores in the ACC.
David Bell, who was a midfielder and forward last season, has the most playing time among the returning lettermen. He started 15 matches and scored two goals and had one assist in 2006. Michael Brooks (JR) started two matches and had four goals and three assists for 11 points. Thornton also returns after playing in 13 matches a year ago. Eric Cava and Tommy Drake will be used as attacking players and their preseason performance will determine who is in the starting lineup.
“We are hoping that David Bell can continue his goal scoring form from the spring when he netted nine goals in eight games,” said Adair. “David Bell needs to stick away his chances. He has tremendous speed and can stretch teams out. He is one of the fastest players I have ever coached. He has a lot of pace and is very athletic. He had a solid year last fall.
“Brooks scored a lot of big goals for us last season and made more progress in the spring. He plays well with his back to the goal, and he too needs to finish his chances. Thornton can stretch people out with his speed.”
There is a lot of enthusiasm in the Clemson camp this season, and Adair is as excited as ever as this group of Tigers have the potential to be one of the strongest teams he has ever had.
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