Fair 43°
Tech Set to Open Season
Previewing the Hokies
August 31, 2004

Blacksburg, Va. - Optimism abounds in the world of Virginia Tech soccer. Third-year head coach Oliver Weiss only loses five starters off an NCAA second round team. Eleven promising newcomers will join the team as the Hokies look for a little déjà vu with a return to the NCAA Tournament. As Tech moves into the always-tough Atlantic Coast Conference this year, the Hokies appear ready to challenge for conference and national prominence.

"Overall, the outlook is very rosy. We're coming off the most successful season in Virginia Tech soccer history, and that should motivate us to perform even better," said Weiss. "We did lose three impact players, but the newcomers and returnees will give us a great balance of youth and experience. We'll be younger, but better."

On Wednesday, the Hokies start their new season in Greensboro, N.C., against UNC Greensboro. The Spartans garnered votes in the College Soccer News Top 30 preseason poll, while Tech was ranked 21st in the nation.

Forwards

Weiss has big shoes to fill on the front line where he'll have the task of trying to replace leading goal scorer Bobby O'Brien's school-record tying 15 goals. However, several players can fill the gap. Redshirt senior co-captain, Ken Jonmaire (East Aurora, N.Y.), will be asked to take charge from day one. Jonmaire will look to improve on his 2003 output of six goals and two assists. Using his terrific leaping ability and short range shooting, Jonmaire should be dangerous in the air and from distance on the ground. Senior Peter Woody (Richmond, Va.) may see time as a forward this year as well. His great work ethic and pace can be an asset to the team. Sophomore Eric Vickers (Fort Worth, Texas) has been a positive addition with his three goals in 2003 and is expected to play on the right flank again either as a forward or midfielder.

The big question will be how quickly the new recruits can contribute to the Hokie attack. Marcus Reed scored 31 goals in his senior year for Hickory High in Chesapeake, Va. If he can be consistent in ACC competition, the Hokies would be quite happy. Gordon Bengtson (Newport, R.I.) set a New England Prep scoring record during his career. Coach Weiss hopes he can continue his streak in Blacksburg. Nick Norwood (Southlake, Texas) may add a scoring punch to the attack with his pace and poise. Kevin Edwards (Fredericksburg, Va.) will most likely play forward and in midfield, leaving his mark on the field with his dribbling, speed and terrific shooting. Brandon Miller (Knightdale, N.C.) is another player that will get a chance to showcase his skills in the attacking half of the field.

Midfield

Lacking experienced midfield players is not a concern for Weiss this season. Six players who saw extensive playing time in 2003 return, along with several newcomers who could work their way into the lineup. The coaching staff knows it has a plethora of combinations to work with to solidify the midfield. Leading the way is sophomore Ben Nason (Stafford, Va.), the 2003 BIG EAST Rookie of the Year. He led the team with nine assists last year and has the ability to dominate the tempo of the game. Senior co-captain Bailey Allman (Virginia Beach, Va.) has the task of being the vocal and organizing leader on the field. His experience, tenacity and great work ethic should give him a spot in the midfield, from which he will be the backbone of the entire Hokie unit. Charlie Howe, a junior from Mechanicsville, Va., was voted the team's most improved player in 2003 and will have to bring his defensive skills to the table while competing for one of the midfield spots this year. Junior Greg Roach (Woodbridge, Va.) is expected to step up his minutes played as he has the ability to slip through defenses with his tricky dribbles. Sophomore Brent Dillie (Pittsburgh, Pa.) could play a midfield role or drop back to help on defense, depending on how quickly Weiss is rebuilding the losses of two defenders due to graduation. Dillie's vision and game intelligence should still cause problems to any 2003 opponents. Chad Steuck (Cary, N.C.), also a second year player, will renew his friendship with the left side of the field as he did a superb job in 2003, starting all 22 games as a freshman.

Two newcomers may add a different element to the Tech midfield this year. Icelandic junior national team member Magnus Einarsson may end up playing in front of the Hokie defense based on his wealth of experience in European "football." As an incoming graduate student, he will have to get to work quickly, since he only has two seasons of eligibility for the Maroon and Orange. Northwestern University transfer David Brown (Media, Pa.) has the credentials to add great creativity to the midfield lineup.

Defense

With Academic All American and 2nd team All-BIG EAST selection Lasse Mertins, as well as 5th-year senior and "Ironman" Harold Russell gone from the Tech defense, some major reshuffling is due this fall. The spring season proved to be a nice building block to tinker with different players and lineups alike. Junior Dustin Dyer (Ashland, Va.) remains a constant on the right side of the defense. His powerful free kicks and tough marking skills make him a true asset on both sides of the ball. Second year player Bo Lawrence (Haymarket, Va.) showed improvements during the spring games and should make a case for their inclusion in the lineup this fall. Bo's technical ability, combined with his speed should certainly help the team on the outside position.

Two new faces should have a positive impact this season. Ian Taylor (Reston, Va.) enrolled in January at Tech and played in all of the spring matches. He claimed a spot during those games and is expected to continue to excel in his first fall season for the Hokies. Bryan Collier (Fayetteville, Ga.) will challenge for a spot. Collier's speed and tenacity as one of Georgia's top prospects should help him see significant playing time.

Goalkeeping

In net, Tech appears to be solid as all-state junior goalkeeper Chase Harrison (Huntington, W. Va.) returns for his third season after posting a 1.13 goals against average with 5.5 shutouts last year. Newcomer Drew Czekanski (Westerville, Ohio) will add depth as he joins the Hokies for his first collegiate season.

Schedule and Expectations

Tech is slated to face a challenging schedule that includes seven ACC matches. They will face Big Ten powers Penn State and Ohio State, both on the road, as well as 2003 NCAA Elite Eight participant Coastal Carolina. The Hokies have four other in-state rivals to compete against this season in addition to Virginia. This includes James Madison, Liberty, Radford, and William & Mary. The Virginia Tech Classic as well as three other tournaments should keep Hokie soccer fans happy, as they get to see two weekend games at each of these events. Seven of Tech's 2004 opponents made last year's NCAA Tournament.

"Our expectations are clear as usual. We want to be among the best teams in the ACC and in the nation. We want to get a seed in the NCAA Tournament this year and have a shot at the national title by advancing to the College Cup, which is soccer's version of the NCAA Final Four. We can only achieve these goals by working extremely hard, staying injury free, and playing against opponents who have similar goals," said Weiss.

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