FLORENCE, SC – The Francis Marion University men’s soccer team will open its 2010 season on Thursday (Sept. 2) when the Patriots host local-rival Coker College at 5 p.m. on the FMU Soccer Field.
Admission is free.
Francis Marion leads the all-time series with the Cobras 20-6-5. The Patriots are unbeaten in their last 14 meetings (13-0-1) with the Cobras, with the two teams tying 1-1 in Hartsville last season.
Fourth-year Francis Marion head Kevin Varnado welcomes back 10 lettermen, including seven starters, from last year’s 11-5-3 squad that placed fifth in the final PBC regular-season standings and lost a tight overtime decision in the quarterfinal round of the conference tournament. Nine of the returnees were on the 2008 FMU squad that swept both the PBC regular-season and tournament titles.
Varnado’s 2010 Patriot roster also includes 11 newcomers: two NCAA Division I transfers, one junior college transfer, two red-shirt freshman, and six true freshmen.
“This pre-season has been a challenge,” said Varnado. “Adjusting to the NCAA’s ‘Life in the Balance’ objectives that pushed back the starting practice date, we have been a little more rushed in preparing for the start, especially given the large class of newcomers. That being said, I feel good about the progress we have made.”
“Coker will be a very good test to start the season. It gives us an opportunity to learn a lot about ourselves in the opener.”
“This year’s roster has options and depth – a collective and complete team. With possibly my best recruiting class, as a whole, we have brought in student-athletes who can play right away and make an immediate impact. I have the luxury of being able to go as deep as eight or nine players off the bench.”
Heading the returnees are senior defenders Ivan Juric and Justin Kibler, senior goalkeeper Clark Richeson, senior midfielders Chris Foltanski and Julian Ramjohn, and junior defenders Cameron Mabee and Adrian Williams.
Juric, a recent pre-season All-Conference selection, played 1,719 out of a possible 1,784 minutes in 2009 and helped anchored a Patriot defense that ranked 25th nationally in goals against average and posted eight shutouts. Following the 2009 season, he garnered both All-Conference and All-Region recognition. He owns career totals of 18 goals and nine assists in 59 career matches.
“We are looking for big things from Ivan at the left back position, among them senior leadership.”
Richeson, a two-year starter, returns in goal. Last season, he registered an 0.87 goals against average with 102 saves, the 11th-highest season total in Peach Belt history. In 47 career matches in goal, he owns 227 saves with a 1.26 goals against average.
“Staying healthy at the keeper position is a key for us,” Varnado said. “Throughout his career, Clark has persevered and it is impressive where he has advanced from. He has worked especially hard over the past year and should reap the benefits in 2010. Entering this season, he has the potential to be on par with our best-ever keepers. Watching him turn into a senior goalkeeper has been exciting, including a slight chip on his shoulder that displays how much he wants to gain post-season honors.”
In 2009, FMU allowed only 17 scores in its 19 matches.
Foltanski is the Patriots’ top returning scorer from 2009, with six goals and three assists. “Chris has played about every position but keeper during his career at FMU. He has worked on some things, and I feel as though he is realizing his potential. Chris at the offensive end and Clark at the defensive end will be keys to our success in 2010.”
The newcomers include University of Louisville transfer Travis Bally (Plano, Texas), High Point University transfer Chuy Cruz (Austin, Texas), junior college transfer Austin Cole (Brandon, Miss.) and freshmen Alex Blandin (Shreveport, La.), Stefan Gojic (Lawrenceville, Ga.), Gentry Johnson (Wilmington, N.C.), Shane McConlogue (Albemarle, N.C.), Jeran Nanthakumar (Carlsbad, Calif.), Carson Nance (Florence, S.C.), Wesley Noble (Brandon, Miss.), and Justin Walton (Charleston, S.C.). Nance is a graduate of South Florence High School.
“Cruz as an attacking central midfielder fills one of the voids we had due to graduating seniors. He is only 5-4, but has an enormous presence on the field and he changes the landscape of the team when he is on the field. Bally is very talented, has overall composure on the ball in all aspects of play (offense and defense), and gives us flexible versatility in regards to the line-up. Cole is very athletic and is a still a work in progress as he moves from an attacking forward mentality to the backline.
“As I said before, the freshmen will also serve a major role in our 2010 season – through speed, technical ability, versatility, and work ethic.”
FMU was tabbed to finish fifth in the race for the 2010 PBC championship according to a pre-season vote by the league’s head coaches.
Following Thursday’s grudge match, Francis Marion will host Florida Tech on Saturday at 4 p.m. The 17-match regular-season slate is highlighted by nine home contests. FMU opens conference play on Sept. 18 by hosting Clayton State University.
The PBC Tournament will be held during the first week in November. The tournament semifinals and finals, Nov. 5-7, will be played at Blanchard Woods Park in Evans, Ga., as part of the first-ever PBC Fall Festival.
The Francis Marion squad has captured each of the past two Peach Belt Conference Team Sportsmanship Awards for men’s soccer.