Men's Soccer Announces Awards
O'Brien, Russell named MVPs
April 13, 2004

BLACKSBURG, Va. - Four Virginia Tech men's soccer players received the team's highest awards when the Hokies held their spring soccer banquet on Saturday, April 10. Virginia Tech players, coaches and support staff from the record setting 2003 season attended the annual dinner event at the Donaldson Brown Hotel and Conference Center.

Senior Bobby O'Brien (Williamsburg, Va.) won the team's Offensive MVP and Most Competitive Player honors, while fellow senior Harold Russell (Swarthmore, Pa.) earned the Defensive MVP accolade and the Coach's Award. Sophomore Charlie Howe (Mechanicsville, Va.) was named the Most Improved Player, while senior Lasse Mertins (Rotenburg, Germany) was honored with the Academic Achievement Award.

O'Brien, one of the Hokies' co-captains, ranked among national and regional leaders on offense, scoring 15 goals along with five assists for 35 points. His goal total tied a school record for season goals, while his point total ranked as the second highest in a season. He tied a single match record with four goals and nine points against Radford and scored 11 goals in the team's final eight matches, including four in the two NCAA Tournament matches. O'Brien closed his career ranking among Hokie career leaders in goals, points and shots.

Russell was a catalyst in the Hokies' defensive success throughout his career, helping Tech limit 20 of 22 opponents to two or less goals in 2003. He started all 22 matches in 2003 and rarely missed a minute as the team's defensive stopper. He propelled Tech to six shutouts and helped the Hokies rank among conference leaders in shutouts and goals against average. After taking a redshirt in 1999, Russell played in 72 matches over the next four years as a Hokie.

Howe played in all 22 matches in his second season, developing into a reliable threat on offense for Tech. He registered six assists during the year, giving him nine for his career, and had one goal. In a 5-1 win at Syracuse, Howe tallied three assists and scored a goal to be named to the Soccer America Team of the Week.

Mertins, a graduate student who played two full seasons at Tech, was honored for his work in the classroom. He was named Academic all-District III by CoSIDA and went on to earn third-team Academic all-America honors. On the field, the co-captain was one of the Hokies' top defenders and also showed his offensive skills with two goals and two assists.

Tech concluded one of its most productive seasons in school history at the NCAA Tournament second round. The Hokies set numerous team and individual records, won several individual awards from conference and national organizations, and finished in second place in their final year in the BIG EAST. Tech also defeated three ranked opponents in 2003 and set a school record with 14 wins, finishing the season ranked in the top 25 in all major polls.