Consistency and focus are what second year Head Coach Mike Noonan will be stressing to the Tigers this season building on a much improved and competitive squad from a year ago.
“We are going to stress consistency at a high level of performance to this year’s squad over and over,” said Noonan, who took Brown to eight NCAA Tournaments in his previous stop before Clemson.
“Last year, one of our goals was to keep players believing in themselves and giving them hope. I think that we also accomplished our main goal and that was to be competitive in every match. The goals are similar this year as this team is again, very young. However, we have to be more consistent. Last season, we had good effort, but the level of play would drop in certain matches, and this plagues many evolving teams. We believe we have made strides in addressing this issue, but the upcoming season will be the ultimate barometer.
“Last year, we didn’t know where to sharpen our pencils. This year we are more settled, and we know where things are as players and as a congruent coaching staff. We have shown a lot of improvement in every aspect of the program. We were trying to survive last year, and now we are anxious for the start of the 2011 season.”
Coach Noonan welcomes nine starters and 12 letter winners back from last year’s 5-9-4 team. Of the nine losses, seven were by one-goal deficits. The wins included a victory over 18th-ranked Duke, a 1-0 triumph of perennial power St. Louis, and a 1-0 win over rival Furman in Greenville, SC.
Building from last year’s progress will be a very important step in the scheme of things this fall.
“At the ACC Championships, we lost to fourth-ranked Maryland 2-1 in the quarterfinals. In this match, you could see that our team believed it could win against any opponent, and this was fulfilling for the players. This attitude and belief carried over in the spring and into this summer. At the beginning of last season, any adversity was overwhelming. This changed during the course of the year and that paradigm shift propelled us to a new sense of self belief.
“We could then focus on what was important – how we were going to play an opponent and what OUR strengths and weaknesses were. We had fresh minds and we could work on our mental approach to the game. We had players doing things last year that they were told they couldn’t do in the past.
“Another important aspect of our program that has undergone real changes is our fitness level. This continues to improve daily under the direction of Strength Coach Dennis Love. The players were not cognizant as to what the requirements were to be successful at this level in this area. Dennis has been an MVP on our staff and the players are reaping the benefits in terms of power, flexibility, strength, agility, endurance and most of all confidence!
“Our coaching staff has done a great job in stimulating the development of the team. We feel that we have made vast improvements in the mental, physical and tactical areas of the game. We are showing improvement in concentration and consistency in all aspects of soccer and the life of a Clemson soccer player.
“Simultaneously, we have made great strides in our academics. Our academic Advisor, Bobby Douglas, has really helped our players target and strive for their goals. This spring the Men’s soccer team posted the highest team GPA for male athletics at Clemson for the second consecutive year.
“This is an area that is very important to our coaching staff as the best teams I have ever coached, have been successful in all facets of their lives. Academic excellence translates into competitive excellence in collegiate soccer in particular.”
“On the field, my patience will be tested I believe more than any previous season in my career,” said Noonan. “I know what this team is capable of doing. I want us to improve at a very fast rate. However, we will be a very young team and the maturation process can’t be rushed. I will measure this year’s success in terms of how far we have come since last fall. We are going to strive to improve everyday at practice and again we are looking for consistency, progress has been made and we cannot go backwards.
“This season we will have good times, impatient times, and frustrating times, but it is going to be fun for us and for the fans to follow and get involved with. We will be quicker, bigger, and stronger, and we are anxious for the season to get started.”
Goalkeepers Clemson will be very deep in the keeper position as three very talented players will be vying for the starting position.
Leading the way will be freshman All-American Cody Mizell (SO). Last year, Mizell started 17 matches and finished the season with 64 saves. He had a 1.15 GAA in 2010. The native of Woodstock, GA was also named freshman All-ACC.
“Cody had a great season and will be one of the captains this year. He will be pushed in preseason by redshirt and transfer Erik Mozzo (SO) and Chris Glodack a freshman from Myrtle Beach, SC.
“Erik is probably the most improved athlete on the team in the last eight months. And Glodack is capable of playing for most D1 teams in the country. We have great depth in this position and that is really an asset.”
Defenders Clemson has all four starters returning from 2010 as Francklin Blaise (SR), Wes Nelson (SO), Bo Godwin (JR), and Alex Stockinger (SO) all return. Blaise and Stockinger started all 18 matches in 2010, while Wes Nelson and Godwin both started 15 matches. Stockinger won the Ironman Award having played every minute of every match last year.
“Blaise provides a lot of leadership,” said Noonan. “Godwin and Nelson will also appear in the back. We may see Metcalf and Stockinger in the midfield. We have talented freshmen coming this fall who could make a big impact early. Matt Hilton, Phanuel Kavita, and Alex Burnikel are first year players that will challenge for playing time.
“Overall, it’s how we gel in the back and how quickly we become a cohesive unit. We want more consistency, and we do have experience that will help us develop efficiently. As far as size, we will be better in this area.”
Midfielders The midfield is where Clemson has the most players and experience. Leading the midfield are Riley Sumpter (SR), and Nick Burton (SR).
Priest is credited with having a great offseason. The graduate student has developed into a respected leader according to the coaching staff. Burton started 15 matches and finished the year with two goals and three assists. He also had two game-winning goals. Sumpter finished 2010 with four goals including the OT gamewinner vs. 18th ranked Duke.
“This spring, the midfield began to grasp tactically what we are trying to do. We have a lot of versatility in the midfield and it gives me as a coach a lot of flexibility. Riley Sumpter can play in a lot of places. Stockinger and Metcalf show a lot of energy and passion for the game. Stockinger is more comfortable in the midfield.”
First year players such as Brandon Burkholder, Jack McCoy, Amadou Dia and Tyler Happ, will solidify the midfield for the Tigers.
“We are excited about the depth and the experience we have in this area. They are very coachable and good solid players. Again it is exciting the number of options that we will have this year.”
Forwards Clemson will be very young in this area and may require moving other players to this area to produce goal scoring.
“We are very young in this area, will be asking freshmen to score goals and contribute immediately. We could possibly move Burton to a forward. Austin Savage (JR) is our most experienced player returning. He is more than capable of scoring goals (3g in 2 matches in 2010 vs. Maryland). We have four talented players vying for playing time up front as well.”
Savage stated 15 matches last year and finished the year with four goals and one assist.
The newcomers coming to Clemson include, Bryniar Benediktsson, Kyle Murphy and Amadou Dia.
“Dia is an exciting, slashing player and is fun to watch. Smith is a powerful goal scorer and is a fiery passionate player. He creates for himself and is very aggressive in and around goal. Benediktsson is very good at a lot of things and is a very intelligent player. Murphy can play anywhere across the front line. We are really excited about his skill set.
Josh Doran could compete for playing time as well. He used 2010 to hone his athleticism and speed.
“Doran is probably the best athlete on the team. He needs to refine his game and he worked hard this summer.”
Overview “Realistically, who is going to score the goals? Who is going to be put in the position to have the opportunity to set up the goals? This is one concern going into the fall. We know we will have to take more shots and at the same time we need to be a solid defensive team. Our best defense may be when we possess the ball – we can’t give the ball away in bad places.
“We have internal competition for positions and that is something we didn’t have last year. This team has good character and quality people. The depth is good and this forms competition and enhances technical capabilities.
“We will be better and more focused this year and more important, they are a very coachable group. All the pieces are starting to fall in place. Every day, I’m excited to come to work. I can’t wait to work with the kids and get on the field this fall. What I want to do is give our players an incredible experience that will last a lifetime. I want them to look back and say, `that was awesome playing at Clemson’!”
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