Men's Soccer Prepares for the Start of the 2002 Season
Two Hokie captains offer insight on Tech's preseason progress
August 21, 2002

BLACKSBURG, Va. - The Virginia Tech men's soccer team will continue its preparation for the 2002 season with two scrimmages this week. After one week of two-a-day training sessions, the Hokies will first take the field on Thursday, Aug. 22, when Tech hosts Greensboro College at 6 p.m., on Moseley Field. The Hokies will have a final tune-up on Saturday, Aug. 24, when they travel to Winston-Salem to face nationally-ranked Wake Forest in a preseason exhibition match.

The 2002 Hokies will have a new look this fall. Five seniors are gone from a team that made the BIG EAST tournament during its inaugural season and finished conference play with a 4-4-2 record. A new head coach, Oliver Weiss, will lead the Hokies. He replaces Jerry Cheynet to become only the third head coach in the program's 30-year history.

Despite the transition from the old to the new, the goals for 2002 remain clear: to continue to improve upon Tech's success in the BIG EAST while rebuilding the team with young and hungry players. Some of these players played significant roles during the 2001 season as the Hokies return six starters; however, most of them will be tested for the first time.

Two of the veteran players that will play a major role leading the Hokies will be two of this year's captains: Rob Smith (Greenville, S.C.) and Bobby O'Brien (Williamsburg, Va.). Smith, a two-time captain of the Hokies, enters his senior season and will be making the move from defense to midfield this season. Smith has established a reputation as a hard-worker and team leader after being named the team's most dedicated player by his teammates for two consecutive seasons.

O'Brien, a junior, blossomed as one of the Hokies' main offensive weapons his sophomore season scoring seven goals and four assists (18 points). With the loss of senior Drew Myers (High Point, N.C.), who tore his ACL in preseason practice, O'Brien will be called upon to continue his development as a prolific scorer.

Recently, Smith and O'Brien took some time out in between practice sessions to talk about the upcoming season and answered the following questions:

Q: The team has been practicing for just over one week now. Are you looking forward to the opportunity to play two exhibition games before the start of the season?
RS: Our team is looking forward to a new challenge. It will be a good warm-up before the regular season starts.
BO: Especially with the opportunity to play against a top-20 team like Wake Forest. They are a very good team and will be a good test for us. In the past, we have not been able to play against top-rated teams like Wake Forest and this gives us a chance to show people what we are about.

Q: This is the first preseason for the team with Coach Oliver Weiss. What has that been like working with him to get ready for the season?
RS: The team has loved it. One of his main focuses has been creating team unity. Already it feels like we are closer together as a team. That will definitely pay off in the end because we all will want to fight for each other.
BO: In addition to the actual practices, all the little things we have done this preseason have brought the team closer like eating every meal together. Coach has really concentrated on bringing us together as a team.

Q: You start the season with five straight road games and will not be playing your first home game until Sept. 18 versus West Virginia. Does playing so many games away from home at the start of the season present another challenge for the team?
RS: I think away games actually bring us together as a team. We are able to bond more and get to know each other a little bit more since we are traveling and rooming together. Playing so many away games at the start of the season almost works to our advantage and will help us prepare for our BIG EAST opener at St. John's.

Q: Last season was the team's first year in the BIG EAST. What were some of the things you learned as a player that will help you and your teammates prepare for conference play this season?
RS: Last season, our team proved that we were ready for the level of competition in the BIG EAST. We showed that we are capable of being a top-ranked team and we are not at the bottom of the pack. We want this year's newcomers to understand that we are capable of being a top-20 team year-in and year-out. And we all need to be ready to take that next step.
BO: It clearly was a different level of play compared to the Atlantic 10. Every game is competitive. There is not much difference between the top team and the team's in the bottom of the conference. There is as much parity in this league as there is in any other conference. We need to be prepared mentally and physically for every game.

Q: Rob, last season you played defense and now you have been asked to move up to the midfield position. How has that transition been for you?
RS: I played defense for my first three seasons at Tech. I actually played some midfield in high school so it is not something completely new. It's just a new challenge for me. Wherever you are told to play, as long as you are able to help the team succeed, that is the most important thing.

Q: Bobby, last season you developed into one of the team's top offensive threats. With the loss of Drew (Myers) and coming into the season as the top offensive threat, is there added pressure this season for you?
BO: Anytime you lose a player to injury, it is unfortunate. Drew will definitely be missed this season, but we have to deal with that. Fortunately, we have a lot of good forwards who are ready to play and pick up where Drew left off.

Q: Most of the preseason polls have already been released and Virginia Tech did not receive any recognition in any of the top-20 polls. Does that create some added incentive to go out and prove what this program is all about?
BO: After last season, we thought that we earned respect with our overall performance and by qualifying for the BIG EAST Tournament. Maybe we didn't get as much respect as we should have. We really don't have much control over who votes for what teams. We just need to go out and prove that we deserve respect.
RS: This program is ready to take it to the next level and has the ability to be ranked each year. Now we have to go out and prove it on the field.

Tech will officially kick-off the regular season on Friday, Aug. 30, in Norfolk, Va., against Old Dominion. Looking ahead to BIG EAST play, the Hokies will travel to Jamaica, N.Y., for the first conference game of the year against nationally-ranked St. John's on Saturday, Sept. 14,