FLORENCE, SC -- The Francis Marion University men’s soccer team will open its 2005 campaign with an unusual mix of experience and youth: seven seniors, four sophomores, and 12 freshmen.
The Patriots open their season Friday (Aug. 27) in Banner Elk, N.C., when FMU will face the host team in the second match (7:30 p.m.) of the Lees-McRae College Soccer Classic. On Saturday, Francis Marion will play the University of the Cumberlands at 5:30 p.m. on the final day of the classic.
Patriot head coach Murray Hartzler has prepared for his 12th year at FMU by welcoming back 10 lettermen, all of whom started at some point in 2004, from last year’s 8-10-1 squad that finished sixth in the Peach Belt Conference. Seven of the team’s losses were by one goal.
“Our combination of youth and experience is an interesting dynamic,” Hartzler said. “How quickly we mesh and come together as a unit will be vital to our success this season. To reach that end, leadership by our seniors will be very important.
“We return a quality goalkeeper (Jonathan Runion) and an experienced defensive backfield (two seniors), but must replace the top four scorers from last season. We will employ a formation that will necessitate scoring from our midfielders. We must also stay as healthy as possible.
“We have already made improvements in our play during the preseason. This squad reminds me of the 2002 Patriot team that won the PBC regular-season title. To reach the same goal, this team needs to persevere through the opening portion of the season and then peak as post-season play approaches.”
Runion is a three-year starter that posted a 1.86 goals against average in 2004. He is nearing the Patriot career records for matches played in goal and could threaten the school’s career mark for saves. “Runion has been very sharp in preseason practices and we are looking for a big senior campaign from him,” Hartzler added.
Senior All-Region back Mike Greenaway also returns, as does senior back Andy Conrad, a three-year starter. According to Hartzler, Greenaway and his health will be key ingredients to his team’s success. “Mike has been hampered by nagging injuries throughout his career, and this year has been no different. He is slightly injured now, and the only cure is two or three months rest, so we will pick and choose spots to rest him during the season.”
Other key returnees include senior midfielders Anthony Addorisio and Valentine Baker, sophomore midfielders Biagio Galle and Shondell Busby (the team’s leading returning scorer from 2004 – 2 goals 3 assists), sophomore forward Jonathan Bartomioli, and sophomore back Matt Gourie. Of the team’s 37 goals scored in 2004, only seven were recorded by players on the 2005 roster.
Hartzler pointed to five freshmen who have stood out during preseason practice and could start and make major contributions in 2005: forward Matt Harris (St. Charles, Mo.), back Charles Reitz (St. Louis, Mo.), midfielder Brendan Scheider (Georgetown, Texas), back and midfielder Willie Hunt (Greer, S.C.), and forward David Simpson (Columbia, S.C.). Another first-year player, Jordy Jordan, a very athletic back from West Florence High School, has also excelled during the preseason and could work his way into the starting rotation.
Backing up Runion in goal will be freshmen Nick Krywyj (Berea, Ohio) and Jeremy Crooks, a product of South Florence High School.
FMU has been picked to finish fifth according to the 2005 Peach Belt Conference preseason coaches’ poll, while Clayton State University was installed as the preseason favorite.
Hartzler owns a 121-83-11 record in his 11 years at FMU, and is the winningest coach in the program’s 30-year history. He has a combined career coaching record of 207-144-32 in 21 years, and enters the 2005 campaign as the 35th winningest coach (by percentage) among active Division II men’s coaches, and is 18th in total wins. During the 2005-06 year, Hartzler will also serve as the national chairman of the nine-person NCAA Division II Men’s Soccer Committee, which governs the Division II men’s soccer championships.
The 2005 FMU schedule includes eight home matches and the always-tough six-match Peach Belt slate. “We continue to play one of the toughest schedules in the region,” Hartzler added. “We are playing the top teams in the CVAC and a pair of Top 25 teams from the South Atlantic Conference, in addition to the Peach Belt members.”
Francis Marion has won two of the past five PBC regular-season championships.