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Men’s Soccer Looks to Take Next Step in 2011

Coming into the new soccer season, the men’s soccer program is expecting big things. As the two-time defending NEC champions, they were once again picked to take the division. Six seasons in a row they have taken the regular-season title and the 2011 season hopes to bring the seventh.

After a 2010 season where the Hawks remained in the national rankings and hosted a home NCAA tournament first round game, they are looking to continue their winning ways.

Going into the season in mid-August, they were chosen as the 27th best team in the nation according to College Soccer News. Coach Robert McCourt led the Hawks to 14 wins in 2010 and now he surely hopes to top that mark.

Led by Ryan Kinne, the Hawk offense will look to post its 1.80 goals per game mark. With big shoes to fill, they will be led by veteran players such as RJ Allen, Anthony Vazquez and Max Hamilton. This trio was quite a standout in NEC play last year and along with them, the Hawks can be led by first team all NEC midfielder Ryan Clark.

Hawk recognition has come from other news sources besides the College News polls, such as the Soccer America’s Preseason polls and All-American nominations. Monmouth took the 21st ranking in this and RJ Allen was also named to its preseason All-American squad. Allen is a major weapon for the team this year and it sure seems like many NEC teams will feel his presence.

Ryan credits his teammates for all of the credit and attention he is getting. “Without my teammates I would not be getting all of the recognition, so it is all because of them that I am where I am,” Allen said.

As noted in the creation of this poll, the Hawks did lose two players to the MLS draft following last season, but with the return of such veteran talent such as Allen and the aforementioned Hamilton and Vazquez, the Hawks will undoubtedly press to compete for the top spot.

With all the hype it would be interesting to see if the Hawks would connect in their first few games to prove the polls right. But after a season opening victory against Saint Peter’s, the Hawks were recognized as a consensus top 25 team, being acknowledged in three different national polls. Their rankings went everywhere from 25th to 17th in the nation. The high honors stemmed from the 10 victory over Saint Peter’s, which was the first game was ever played on the

Great Lawn at night. Two Monmouth standouts, Ryan Clark and RJ Allen were the ones involved in the scoring. Clark, who scored the goal was assisted by the All-American, Allen.

Still aboard the national polls, the Hawks faced Boston University on September  1st. RJ Allen was once again the difference maker, scoring the game winning goal and helping the team improve to 20 on the season. Monmouth held a solid advantage in corner kicks on the afternoon and MU was impressively led by goalkeeper Alex Blackburn, who earned his third career shutout.

Anyone who held doubts early on whether the Hawks could maintain their dominance were surely proven wrong where after the Boston University game, the team rose in the national rankings again.

The NSCAA poll placed the Hawks at number 18 in the nation, an extremely respectable spot and a ranking that is going to earn them a considerable amount of national attention. In the Soccer America poll, the Hawks took 13th and with the play of their veteran leaders of late, that number could only increase.

In another early September matchup, the Hawks were to be tested by a nationally recognized William & Mary team, which came in with a #14 ranking.

The game, a part of the Stihl Soccer challenge first round, was changed by George Quintano, who scored in the 70th minute and won the game for Monmouth. Ending, 10, the matchup put MU at an undefeated 30 record and William and Mary 220 record.

Coming off of the big William and Mary win, the Hawks continued the weekend with another matchup versus Old Dominion. After sealing the #18 ranking, the Hawks found their first step back, falling 31 to ODU.

Senior Matt Beverin managed to put one through for MU but it wasn’t enough as they suffered their first loss of the season. The loss put the Hawks at second for the Stihl Classic but their weekend was truly marked by their impressive victory over William and Mary. RJ Allen and Anthony Vazquez were named to the all-tournament team although the Hawks couldn’t come away with the top spot. 

With considerable recognition and impressive victories to start off the season, the Monmouth men’s soccer team are in for what could be a historic season. With a 310 start and having an All-American, along with top notch NEC talent, the team is sure to see large success this year.  Coach McCourt strongly believes this as well.

“We have a very talented group this season and we are hoping to repeat as NEC champions this year. We are also looking to go even further in the NCAA tournament,” said McCourt.