April 8, 2009
There were bright spots during the 2008 Clemson men’s soccer season. The Tigers had victories over the two teams that played for the national championship, runner-up North Carolina and eventual champion Maryland. The Tigers defeated a then fourth ranked Maryland team 5-3 at Riggs Field, as well as the then seventh ranked Tar Heels in overtime 3-2 at Riggs Field.
Junior goal keeper Joseph Bendik had a lot to do with those two wins, something he has done over his career at Clemson. At season’s end he was named second-team All ACC, as well as the third-team NSCAA/Adidas All-South team. He not only led the ACC in saves per game, but also total saves as well.
Bendik started all 18 games and made 93 saves, and average of just over five per game. It was the second straight year Bendik finished exactly 26th in the nation in saves per game. He also was third in the ACC in save percentage with a figure of .767, which means he stopped more than 75 percent of the shots he faced throughout the season.
Starting in goal for the Tigers has been a long time dream for Bendik. “I came to Coach Adair’s soccer came when I was 11 years old so I have thought about playing here for some time,” said Bendik. Five years later he committed to the Clemson program that was coming off an NCAA Final Four appearance.
The decision of whether or not to attend Clemson was not just about soccer for Bendik. “I wanted to play for an elite program, but I also wanted to go to a school that was close enough to home so that my family could come watch me play.”
One other factor also played a large role in Bendik’s choice to attend Clemson. Bendik’s sister Megan is also a student at Clemson and one of the top rowers on the Clemson women’s rowing team that is ranked in the top 15 in the nation.
Bendik arrived at Clemson in the fall of 2006 after a stellar high school and club soccer career that saw him chosen as a member of the U18 National Team. He was also named a NSCAA High School All-American, and attended the Adidas ESP (Elite Soccer Program) in Hartford, CT.
When Bendik arrived in Clemson he knew he might not see much playing time, because Phil Marfuggi returned in goal after helping the Tigers to the Final Four in 2005. The 2006 season would see the true freshman Bendik appear in six matches, including four starts. Bendik went 3-1 in these matches, including wins over Virginia and North Carolina. Following the 2006 season Bendik played on the United States U18 National Team in a match against Brazil in December.
With Marfuggi’s graduation, the 2007 season would include a vast increase in playing time for Bendik. He started all 19 matches that he appeared in for a total of 1,745 minutes and finished with 93 saves. He finished 26th nationally in saves per game with 4.9 per game. Bendik was also named to the Virginia Tech All-Tournament Team that season as well.
Between the 2007 and 2008 seasons Bendik played for Cobb FC the same club team that he played for during high school. This team won the State Cup Championship and was regional finalists during the summer of 2008.
Clemson finished with a 7-9-2 record last year, but the aforementioned wins over North Carolina and Maryland demonstrate the potential for the program heading forward. Bendik will be one of the senior leaders in 2009.
“Coach Adair is very tough coach, but he always gets maximum effort from his players. We are all working hard in the spring and offseason to have a great 2009.”
When Bendik was asked about the goals of the team for 2009 he replied, “I think the past two years for us have been a big test. The coaches have implemented some really hard fitness that we have all adapted to well. We feel it is time for us to return to the NCAA Tournament.”
The only personal goal that Bendik said he has for the 2009 season is to be First-Team All-ACC. After earning second-team honors last year that is certainly attainable. He knows that to achieve this goal he will need another stellar season, but playing behind a veteran defense makes Bendik feel comfortable during games.
“Greg Eckhardt, David Newton, and I have really grown as players, and together we have made a solid defensive block. We have grown to know each other’s tendencies, which make it easier to play together.”
As Bendik enters his senior season he will look back upon his time here with the Tigers with pride and hopefully move forward into a future that includes professional soccer.
“I will never forget my time here. Last year beating Maryland and North Carolina at Riggs Field were certainly memorable games. The home crowds were great. We want to have more of those moments in 2009.”
Bendik hopes to leave his legacy as a soccer player at Clemson after this season, but he also wants young soccer players to know that there is no finer place to play college soccer than Clemson University.
“Clemson has the best, hands down, facilities in the country. Our practice field is just as nice as Riggs, and the weight room is a huge help in boosting players to their potential. Coaches, advisors, and your teammates are like family here. And the team chemistry is a big part of the experience. You can feel it grow over your four years.”
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