New faces and experienced veterans should keep Clemson among the nation’s elite this fall. The Tiger program has been ranked in the top 10 in the nation in five of the eight years Trevor Adair has served as head coach and has four NCAA Tournament quarterfinal finishes, including 2002.
Even though Clemson lost three players who are currently playing in the pro ranks in the MLS, Adair feels that the Tiger program will remain strong.
“There is no doubt that we lost key players in Doug Warren, Ricky Lewis, Fabio Tambosi, Oskar Bringsved, and Dimelon Westfield,” said Adair, who has been Clemson’s head coach since 1995. “They were starters who had a major impact on our program.
“Between recruiting and players making improvements in the spring, I feel very confident that we won’t drop off in our ability level as a team. With the outstanding recruiting year, and the international experience that they bring to Clemson, along with strides we made in the spring, we will have a young team with a lot of depth.
“With the experience of our recruits having played on the under-17 team, we have players who will contribute right away and we should be as strong, if not reasonably stronger than last year. The recruiting class we are bringing in this season will keep the program in very good standing for the next four years.”
Once again, Adair’s team will face a challenging schedule. Maryland is ranked number-one in the nation in some preseason polls and as usual the ACC is rated among the best soccer conferences in the nation. The non-conference slate includes two tournaments away from home (Virginia Commonwealth and the Furman Invitational), and Clemson will play host to its own invitational, a field that will included Air Force and Coastal Carolina. Coastal Carolina was ranked in the top 20 last year and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
GOALKEEPERS Clemson lost All-American and two-year starter Doug Warren. He started 19 of the 21 games last year and had a 1.31 goals against average to go with a 79.4 percent saves percentage, among the best in the nation. He was a big reason Clemson made a run to the NCAA quarterfinals in 2002 and ranked among the top defensive teams in the nation in 2002. However Hunter Gilstrap is back for his sophomore season. Gilstrap played in 197 minutes, recorded six saves and finished the season with a 0.91 GAA. The Tigers also added freshman Phillip Marfuggi, a 6-1 product of Manalapan, NJ.
“Hunter has worked extremely hard to improve all areas of his game, but needs experience in some high profile games. He will be pushed strongly by Phil Marfuggi. Phil played well on the U17 team and has good international experience.
Another newcomer, Jarrett Lewis, will add needed depth to this position. He is a candidate to red-shirt the 2003 season.
BACKS The Tigers will be very experienced and have plenty of depth in the back-an asset for the new goalkeeper.
Clemson has three starters returning in the back in Chase Hilgenbrinck, Nick Rivera and Justin Moore . Hilgenbrinck started 19 matches and had five assists and one goal for seven points. Rivera, who played 2273 minutes last year, had 20 starts and finished the season with one goal and one assist. Moore started 20 matches and played a team best 2307 minutes as a freshman. He finished the season with two assists, but was a mainstay for a Clemson defense that allowed just 30 goals in 22 games all season. However he will probably be moved to the midfield, at least at the beginning of the season.
Brett Branan is another experienced player who will see action in the back. A midfielder last year, Branan scored both goals in Clemson’s 2-1 win over number-one ranked Wake Forest in the NCAA Tournament last year, certainly a landmark victory for the Tiger program. He scored on 36.4 percent of his shot attempts last year, second on the Tiger team among players who played at least 500 minutes.
“Nick Rivera has been a mainstay in the middle of the back. Brett Branan has been moved to the back and these two will probably anchor the center of the defense. In the spring, they developed a great working relationship that will allow us to be strong in the back.
“We will probably move Chase Hilgenbrinck should see action on the left side or in the middle. Landy Mattison made a lot of progress in the spring and he is difficult to beat because of his strength and speed.”
On the right side, people vying for the starting spot include returning letterman Grant Kevins and Andrian Chevannes a freshman from Fort Worth, TX. Kevins played in 10 games last year, including one start, and played 237 minutes for the season. Paul Souders, with his versatility, may see some time in the defense.
“Kevins played on the right during the spring and Chevannes is a big strong player who is good in the air, and he likes to come forward.”
Other players expecting to compete for playing time include: J.D. Brooks and Eric Forbes. “We have a good mixture of size and speed in the back and this will enable us to attack from the back. We have a lot of depth. The key is getting the unit to gel together. The will have to come together quickly with a new goalkeeper coming into the lineup.”
MIDFIELD Fabio Tambosi, and the mult-talented Oskar Bringsved, to graduation.
Cutler started 20 matches and was the Tigers’ fourth leading scorer with five goals and five assists for 15 points. John Cooper, who played in 14 games, two as a starter last year, could also be a factor. He had two assists in his limited playing time in 2002.
“John Cooper saw valuable minutes in the central midfield and we look for him to improve after a solid freshman year. Cooper has the ability to come forward and score goals. “We will probably move Justin Moore from the back to replace Bringsved as a defensive midfielder. We also moved Steven Rhyne to an attacking midfield role that is suited more to his game. He and Cutler formed a good working relationship in the spring.”
Rhyne is the team’s leading returning scorer from last year with seven goals and nine assists for 23 points. He started 19 of the 21 games and had a pair of game winning goals. “Rhyne had a great spring season and did well in his productivity and leadership. He could be one of the best in the league, if he lives up to his potential. Brad Gibson and Paul Souders could also play in the midfield.”
Clemson added freshmen Hector Quintantar, Olatomiwa Ogusola and Stuart Holden to the midfield.
FORWARDS Clemson returns Paul Souders to the forward position. Souders started 11 matches and finished the year with two goals and five assists for nine points. Borges was tied as the team’s fifth leading scorer with four goals and six assists for 14 points, but he is third among returning scorers for 2003. He started just five games last year, but logged 1106 minutes and played in all 22 games.
The Tigers lost All-American Dimelon Westfield due to graduation. He was the team’s leading scorer with 20 goals and five assists for 45 points, the top scorer in the ACC. He scored on an incredible 37 percent of his shot attempts last year and had a team best five game-winning goals.
“Andre has the tools to have a breakout year and rank among the leading scorers in the conference this year. With the addition of James Georgell and Carlton Hughes, we have replaced the speed of Dimelon Westfield and added some size to the central attacking position. Both bring a lot of experience to the team and should make an immediate impact.”
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