Laker men's soccer set to open 2012
MORROW, GA – The Clayton State men's soccer team will hit the field Friday with hopes of continuing the tradition of being one of the top NCAA Division II soccer programs in the country.
The Lakers will open the season Friday hosting the Loch Shop Classic, the eighth-year of the season-opening, two-day tournament at Laker Field, which always features some of the top NCAA Division II men's soccer programs in the Southeast Region.
The tournament will open on Friday at 5 p.m. with Peach Belt Conference rival North Georgia facing Conference Carolinas opponent Queens. Clayton State will follow with a 7:30 p.m. match against Pfeiffer, another regional opponent from the Conference Carolinas. On Saturday, North Georgia will take on Pfeiffer, followed by the Lakers closing the tourney against Queens at 7:30 p.m.
Admission is $5 for the tournament and faculty, staff and students are admitted free with their Laker ID. The Clayton State matches will also be webcast at http://www.ustream.tv/claytonstateathletics.
2012 CLAYTON STATE LAKERS
Heading into 2012, the Lakers have reloaded with some of the top young talent in the region with 10 freshmen on the roster. However, the new players will have some experienced hands to guide them as junior midfielders Arturo Cruz and Kevin Rodriguez both return after being named preseason All-Conference. The Lakers also return their leading scorer in senior forward Kenny Mena.
"Since 2000, the Laker (soccer) nation has made an incredible run," said Pete Petersen, who has led the squad to multiple championships in his eight years at the helm. "Players and staff before today surely have something to be proud of. We now go forward with eight returning players and 14 new players being welcomed to the Orange. "We must be ready to face the toughest NCAA Division II Region in the country."
Cruz, a midfielder, played in 17 matches for the Lakers last year and continued his solid play after being named the 2010 Freshman of the Year. He finished with one goal and one assist in his sophomore campaign. Returning for his junior year, Cruz is coming off a spectacular spring season that could position him as a dominant scorer in the league this season for the Lakers.
Back for his junior year, Rodriguez was the epitome of a shut-down defender in 2011 and helped the Lakers to a team 1.28 goals against average, fourth-best in the PBC. He also helped the team record four shutouts a year ago.
"They have been a mainstay on the entire left flank for us (Arturo is a left wing and Kevin is the left back) and have put in a lot of work," said Petersen. "I look forward to them being leaders on our club this season and the next."
Mena finished last year with eight goals and four assists, including three goals in last year's season-opening win against Anderson.
In addition to the trio of returning starters, the squad also brings back experienced players in senior forward Aziz Izmour; sophomore Elliot Prost and senior Bobby Dodd, both midfielders, along with senior defender Wes Manyak and goalkeeper Matt Sutton.
The Lakers have a wealth of talented newcomers coming into the mix, including a pair of forwards. Sophomore Ado Junuzovic, who was recently named Player of the Tournament at the USYSA U-19 National Championships for his Gwinnett Soccer Association team, will provide the club some offensive firepower. He transferred to Clayton Sate after playing one season at NCAA Division I Georgia Southern.
Another forward expected to give the Lakers some instant offense will be junior forward Alhagi Toure, who joins Clayton State after spending two years at Division I George Mason University. Toure was a member of the U17 National Championship team with the Alpharetta Ambush and also was a regular for the PDL Atlanta Blackhawks.
In the midfield, a talented trio of freshmen will join the squad in Griffin Byrne, Nomis Cisic, and Luke Torak. All three were standouts in the Norcross Soccer Association and members of the team that won the 2012 U18 state championship and went onto this summer's regional competition. Cisic was captain of the U18 team; and he also skippered Collins Hill High School, which won the state championship. Joining them are two central midfielders in Keith Egan from Ireland and Jonny Evans from England.
Peters, originally of South Africa, starred at Tyler Junior College in Texas, where he played right back for Tyler's NJCAA National Championship run in 2010. Sandoval, center back and captain of the El Salvadoran U-20 national team, and Roughneen from England, will bring plenty of experience and size in the middle. Roughneen, who is a graduate student at Clayton State, was also selected by the players as this year's team captain.
Gazibara from Serbia continues the long line of attacking wingbacks at Clayton State, while German Enghardt and Twumasi,from the Georgia Futball Club, will also compete for the central defenders job as well. Junior goalkeeper Sean Merfeld, an All-Region transfer from Mars Hill, comes in to compete for tending the nets.
"I am very excited about the Lakers coming in," said Peterson. "We have a lot of technical talent and speed from a lot of different backgrounds, so the staff and I have to get them into going the same direction."
CLAYTON STATE SOCCER SINCE 2000
The Clayton State men's soccer program has experienced an incredible run since 2000 and has consistently been nationally-ranked. Below are few of the accolades:
- 150-61-19 overall record
- 5 Peach Belt Conference regular season titles
- 3 Peach Belt Conference Tournament titles
- 6 NCAA D-II National Tournament appearances with five "Sweet 16s" and an "Elite 8" showing
- 4 PBC Players of the Year and 4 Freshmen of the Year
- 41 NSCAA and Daktronics All Region players
- 8 NSCAA and Daktronics All Americans
- 9 players who went have gone on professionally