No. 6 Patriot Men Look To Continue Soccer Success; Open 2001 Season at Catawba on Saturday
FLORENCE, S.C. – The sixth-ranked Francis Marion University men’s soccer team will try to avoid an unusual trend that has begun each of the past two very successful seasons, when the Patriots play at Catawba College in the team’s season opener, Saturday (Aug. 25) at 7 p.m.
In each of the past two season openers, Francis Marion has lost 2-0, only to follow that loss with a long winning streak. In 1999, FMU lost at Queens College and then won five straight matches en route to a 17-3-1 mark and the Peach Belt Conference tournament championship. In the 2000 opener, FMU lost at home to Mars Hill College. The Patriots then embarked on a school-record 17-match winning streak en route to an identical 17-3-1 record, the PBC regular-season title, and an appearance in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division II national tournament.
The Patriot men return eight lettermen, including six starters from last year’s squad. Heading the list of returnees are All-American back Kirk Bevington and All-Region goalkeeper Mike Frazee. The two, along with returnees Justin Smith and Brad Walker, helped anchor a defense that allowed only 16 goals in 21 matches and ranked seventh nationally in the team goals against average category (0.72). Frazee ranked ninth in Division II in goals against average (0.74), and recorded a school-record eight complete-match shutouts, while playing all but 64 minutes during the 2000 season.
Last fall, the Francis Marion offense ranked 29th in scoring, averaging 2.67 goals per match. This season, FMU must replace the program’s all-time scoring leader, Dzevat Nikocaj (20 goals and nine assists in 2000), who tallied 68 goals and 26 assists during his four-year career. Senior midfielder Brian Martin is the team’s leading returning scorer, having recorded seven goals and four assists last year.
Prior to head coach Murray Hartzler taking over the coaching reins in 1994, the Patriot program owned a .405 winning percentage. In Hartzler’s seven seasons, FMU boasts an 82-50-7 mark, and dating back to the 1999 season, FMU has appeared in 22 of the last 23 national Top 25 polls. In each of his seven years at FMU, Hartzler has increased or equaled his season win total (3 in 1994, 7 in 1995, 10 in 1996, 13 in 1997, 15 in 1998, and 17 in 1999 and 2000).
Catawba returns 14 lettermen, including eight starters, from last year’s 7-11-1 squad. The Indians lead the all-time series 3-1, but Francis Marion won the last meeting 3-1 during the 1999 season.