Aug. 16, 2010
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - With nine returning starters, five of which being 2009 All-Conference USA selections, the Marshall University men's soccer team has visions of a C-USA title in 2010.
Despite the departure of senior's Dustin Dawes and Matt Dickerson to the starting lineup, the core of the team is back. After placing second in the C-USA regular season and post season last year, the Herd will target the NCAA tournament this season.
Sophomore Tom Jackson headlines the strikers as he begins his first full season for the Thundering Herd.
Jackson joined MU six games into the season last year, yet managed to net five goals (four in conference play) and rack up 12 points on his way to being a member of the All C-USA Freshman Team. Jackson is the only returning striker, with four newcomers looking to join him up top.
"We are going to have a lot of kids who can put the ball in the net," Head Coach Bob Gray said. "Forward should be a great strength for us."
The midfield is loaded with returning talent and experience. Mat Butler and Devin Perkins, two all-conference performers last season, will control the central midfield, while senior Sammy Boateng and sophomore Zach Hunter return to man the flanks.
Freshman Matt Risher should play a significant role in the midfield during his first year. Also returning: Diego Ayala, Dalton Hadlock, Fayanga Keita and Natty Thomas, will all be available to run in the midfield.
"We have great depth in the midfield, and it is going to be critical to our success this season," stated Gray.
The back line, arguably the most experienced group as a whole, is returning three of its four starters from the 2009 team that allowed just 21 goals.
All-Conference senior Kendall Sutton and junior Aaron Dini return as the starting center backs. Junior Jordan Hilgefort resumes as one starting outside back and fellow junior Kyle Sniatecki should fill the vacancy left by Dickerson.
"Like the midfield, we have a great deal of depth on defense. Kendall is one of the fastest kids in the conference and a three-year starter," Gray said. "Jordan is a two year starter, Aaron is one of the best ball winners in the air, and Kyle should see a lot of playing time as well."
In net, the Herd has one of the top goaltenders in C-USA. Daniel Withrow is the reigning Conference USA Freshman of the Year and was also a Second-Team All-Conference USA selection in 2009. A native of Rochester Hills, Mich., Withrow was second in conference with a .793 saves percentage. He was named to the 2010 Preseason All-Conference USA Team as the lone goalie making the list.
"We have the C-USA Freshman of the Year in net for us. We are excited about that," said Gray.
With another solid incoming class to compliment a stacked group of returners, the 2010 season looks bright for the Thundering Herd.
MU starts competition with two exhibition contests on August 21st against Gardner-Webb at a neutral location and a home contest with the University of Charleston on August 25th. The regular season opens Sept. 1st when the Herd hosts the Xavier Musketeers at Sam Hood Field.