September 5, 2013

Foundation Set For 2013 Men's Soccer Program

DAHLONEGA, Georgia - (UNGAthletics.com) - After a somewhat mediocre 2012 season, the University of North Georgia men's soccer team is looking to build on the legacy left by the 2012 class of seniors and the standards of head coach, Patrice Parris. Although last season was relatively a disappointing 7-7-2 campaign, on paper, the Nighthawks played a rigorous schedule and came away with several solid wins.

Parris is hopeful that the 2012 Nighthawks, formerly the "Saints", will have paved the way for a nationally respected program and set a building block for years to come.

"As a team and program we did not reach all of our goals last year.  We all knew that we underachieved with the team that we had last year.  With that being said, that 2012 senior class left the program better than it has ever been historically," said Parris. "We are now a top 50 soccer program in the country thanks to their hard work and belief."

Despite losing top goal scorer, Gustavo Cunha, Parris will have a very mixed group of players in terms of experience. On a positive note, UNG returns ten seniors, only three of which played in double-digit games last season. On the flip side, there will be eighteen underclassman that could potentially see action on September 6th, when the Nighthawks head to Miami Shores, Florida for their opening game.

UNG will look to seniors Tyler Daly and Jamie Gleeson to help ease the transition for these young players, while also making their mark on the 2013 season.

"Our veterans from last year have been putting in the work since last semester, waking up at 5:00 AM in the morning for morning workouts and then having training in the evenings.  The all know that we have some unfinished business as a team for the 2013 season.  This 2013 team is a young team, despite the seniors that we have currently.  The majority of our team consists of freshmen and sophomores, they will all have to learn very quickly about the college game and the pace that it is played," said Parris.  "In all, this 2013 team is filled with talent and very coachable."

Despite having quite a few seniors, that does not guarantee anyone playing time. Parris has made it clear that the best players will play, regardless of class. Although there isn't a ton of star power returning, there will be tons of competition for playing time and there are quite a few important roles up for grabs.

"This team is not filled with superstars.  We will be looking for players to play at a consistent level day in and day out.  Don't be surprised if you see the younger players trying to pull their weight during the season.  Some of our seniors have never been in the role of being a consistent player for the 1st team, it will be interesting to see how they adjust to these new roles for the upcoming season," said Parris. "Players that can play well consistently this year will be able to help our team do well."

As usual, the Peach Belt Conference offers some of the most competitive soccer in the country and this year will be no different. In particular, Flagler and Lander enter the season ranked in the top fifteen in the nation. This young UNG team will have to grow up quickly to make some noise in the Peach Belt this season. However, Parris offers no shortage of confidence in his team and their potential for success.

"With us having a very tough schedule again, I am looking forward to seeing how well we can quickly gel in order to reach our goals.  We may be young and inexperienced with our new players, but we are talented team when you are counting on every player," said Parris. "I do know one thing for sure is that we are coachable. Being coachable may be the difference when it comes down to the close games this season.  I do know for sure that we will be very entertaining to watch on the pitch!"

North Georgia will be opening up their season on September 6th at 7:00 PM as they travel to Barry University, as part of the Barry University Classic.  The Nighthawks will open the four-team event against the host Buccaneers. 

Written By: Chris Natsch, UNG Athletic Communications Student Assistant