By Brandon Boyer, Staff Writer
Published in print Aug. 20, 2014
The UNCG men’s soccer team has a 20 game journey ahead of them this fall to prepare for a deep run in the Southern Conference Tournament come November.
With two exhibition matches set forth this week, Coach Justin Maulin will look to finalize his roster and starting lineup before the season officially kicks off with a home match against the Campbell Fighting Camels on August 29th.
The Blue and Gold clad men of UNCG have retained 14 players from their 2013 squad which finished 8-9-2 a season ago. The Spartans were upset by sixth ranked Georgia Southern in the first round of the Southern Conference Playoffs in a 1-0 defensive struggle in front of a heartbroken UNCG Stadium soccer crowd.
Veterans included from last year’s team consist of expert shot-stopper, Stephen Moffit and the return of mid fielder and captain Evan Rees.
With the Spartans captain missing all but two games last season due to a knee injury, Rees will be a welcome return to the fold and the red-shirted junior will add consistent play and leadership on the field with his experience.
There will be six Spartans entering their senior season this fall, with goalkeeper, Davis Griffin, defenders, Aaron Reifschneider, Nathan Bunch, Justin Jones, Jake Fields, and midfielder, Austin Miller, all participating in their final season donning the blue and gold for the Spartans.
Freshmen to Watch
With every new season there is always an incoming batch of freshmen looking to make their mark in the history books of a very successful UNCG men’s soccer program.
This year, there seems to be four talented freshmen looking to make a splash for UNCG’s Men’s Soccer program.
Coach Maulin noted two such players when he was interviewed back in April when the Blue and Gold hosted a six team tournament last spring: “[We’ve] picked up Moises Gonzalez, who graduated high school early and was here in January. He has fast shown to be a good leader and one of our top three players already. […]We’ve got another young man out of Florida, Nico Regent, who’s a very good player. […] They are both very, very good.”
Gonzalez came in early to UNC- Greensboro from Southern Nash High School in Bailey, NC, where he was a two-time All-State selection and scored 96 goals and 84 assists in four years.
Regent joined from American Heritage Academy in Plantation, FL, where he was a three-time All-State selection and led his club team, Miramar United Elite to the Disney Showcase Championship in 2011-12 and the Southern Regional Finals in 2013.
The other two freshmen of note are forward, Jacques Francois and defender, Eric Gunnarsson who are skilled underclassmen who should see some playing time this season.
Francois looks like he could challenge Junior Dustin Gamaradt for a starting spot, as he comes in from Louisburg College, a junior college in Louisburg, NC, where he put together an astounding season, scoring 14 goals and nine assists in 15 games for the Hurricanes.
The 6-foot-2-inch tall Gunnarsson joins the Spartans from Falkenburg, Sweden, where he looks to have claimed a potential starting spot with his play in camp this off-season.
He previously played for Falkenburg FF, a Swedish soccer club playing in Sweden’s highest league, Allsvenskan.
Key Games This Season
With the loss of Elon, Georgia Southern, Appalachian State and Davidson from the Southern Conference this year, UNCG’s schedule is going to look a little different this season.
Virginia Military Institute, Mercer and East Tennessee State are all fresh faces to the Southern Conference, which means that the Spartans conference schedule has weakened quite a bit from previous seasons.
Outside of conference play, the difficulty has been reeved up for the Spartans, with schedule fixtures now including notable soccer schools: UNC Charlotte, Virginia Tech and South Carolina which should be an intriguing match up for the Blue and Gold squad.
Coach Maulin noted in April that the Charlotte and Virginia Tech games would be key games outside of conference play, as the Spartans will look to push and break through into the national rankings again this season as they were a year ago.
This was before injuries and inconsistency got the better of the team as the Blue and Gold stumbled down the finish line to end the season one game under .500
The Spartans moved up to the 15th spot in the national college soccer rankings when they beat the Charlotte 49ers 1-0 early in a September match up last season.
However, the Spartans could not capitalize on their momentum as the team fell right back off the chart with a heavy defeat at the hands of the High Point University Panthers a week later.
Looking to get off on a high note and ride the wave of consistency this season, the Blue and Gold with a group of key veterans returning and a collection of talented freshman, should contend for not only the Southern Conference title, but also a push into the NCAA Tournament.
UNCG men’s soccer will kick-off their 2014 campaign on August 20th against Guilford College in an exhibition match at UNCG Soccer Stadium beginning at 7 p.m.
Leave a Reply