2010 brings many new faces to the Virginia Tech men's soccer team, though a select group of talented returners will provide leadership and give this squad a sense of identity. Head Coach Mike Brizendine (JMU, 1999) enters his second year at the helm and with one year under his belt he will look to build a competitive team in the always- challenging ACC. The team also welcomes back assistant coaches Kevin Doyle (Bowling Green, 1996) and Patrick McSorely (James Madison, 1996) for their second seasons. Jeff Kinney (American University, 2003) enters his first season as an assistant coach.
“In the preseason poll we're playing eight out of the top 20 teams,” said Brizendine. "It's a schedule that I know all of our players are excited about. I think our players are more than willing to accept the challenge."
For the third year in a row, the Hokies will open the regular season with a weekend tournament, this year at the UVa Tournament, hosted by the University of Virginia. Tech will play two games over three days, starting with 17th-ranked St. John's on Friday, Sept. 3. On Sunday, Sept. 5, Tech will take the pitch against the University of Alabama-Birmingham Blazers.
The Hokies will be on the road for the next two games, first taking on 16th-ranked South Florida on Sept. 10. This game is the NSCAA College Game of the Week and will be broadcast live on Fox Soccer Network. Virginia Tech then travels to Washington D.C. to face Howard on Sept. 14.
The Hokies will play their first home game on Friday, Sept. 17, taking on conference foe Clemson. The squad will hit the road for two more games, facing Davidson on Sept. 21 and NC State on Sept. 25, before returning home to take on American on Sept. 28.
Tech begins October with a tough road trip to third-ranked Wake Forest on Oct. 1. After a road contest against Longwood on the fifth, Tech will face sixth-ranked Maryland at Thompson Field on October 8, followed by Alabama A&M at home on Oct. 11.
Brizendine's squad will then take on it's highest preseason ranked opponent (2nd), traveling to Charlottsville, Va., to play defending national champion Virginia on Oct. 14. After a home match against the University of Central Florida on the 19th, Tech faces another preseason top-five team on the road, taking on fourth-ranked North Carolina on Oct. 22.
The final three games of the season truly are the "home" stretch, as Tech closes out the regular season with three games at Thompson Field. First, the Hokies welcome Radford on Oct. 27, followed by two ranked ACC opponents in Duke (11th) on the 30th and Boston College (12th) on Nov. 5.
The front line will be counting on quite a few new faces to help earn points for the Hokies in 2010. Three returners should provide experience and stability up front and help lead this young group.
Sophomore Robert Alberti played in 18 games in 2009, netting two goals on five shots. Alberti is one of three returners from 2009 to net at least two goals last season. Senior Albert Alwang started 17 games last season, with one shot and one assist.Austin Stewart also returns and will likely figure into the mix at the front end.
Faces in the midfield unit will look more familiar than other areas, as Brizendine believes they are the center of the team’s leadership and stability.
Senior Clarke Bentley is one key returner who will bring a lot of experience to this group. Bentley's preparation for the 2010 season has gained him the respect of his teammates and coaches, earning him a role as co-captain for the 2010 squad. Bentley played in all 19 games in 2009, making 14 starts and tallying three goals and two assists on 16 shots. Evan Slusser, a junior out of Prince George, Va., earned 11 starts in 16 appearances as a midfielder and recorded six shots.
Sophomore Greg Cochrane played a number of minutes for the Hokies in 2009 and will look to play a key role in 2010 as well.In 16 starts over 19 games, the Holland, Pa. native earned one assist and took 20 shots.
The team will also have John Snyder back in the mix, after redshirting last season due to medical hardship. Patrick Huang will likely compete for playing time as well, after redshirting in 2009.
The back line will be highlighted by two key returners, senior Koen Oost and sophomore co-captain David Fiorello.
Oost came to the program in 2009 from the Netherlands and immediately made an impact, scoring Tech's first goal of the season at the Middleton Sports & Fitness Invitational against Wisconsin-Milwaukee, a game Tech won, 2-1. Tech won the tournament and Oost was named to the weekend’s All-Tournament Team. Oost played in 17 games, earning 10 starts and registered 15 shots on the season.
Fiorello, despite only being a sophomore, endeared himself to teammates and coaches during his time at Tech and was named co-captain of the 2010 squad.
"David showed our staff during the spring that he could lead this team," said Brizendine. "His maturity and steady resolve are obvious in everything that he does."
Fiorello and the defense helped Tech record shutouts over then-ranked NC State and Davidson and, along with Oost, was named to the Middleton Sports & Fitness Invitational All-Tournament team, after helping Tech hold Wisconsin scoreless. Fiorello started in 17 of the games he played in, earning his first career assist at Duke off a free kick.
Senior James Shupp and junior Jeremy Williams also add to an already experienced defense. Listed as a defender, Shupp managed to put away two goals in 2009, his first career goal coming against Clemson as part of a 4-2 victory. Williams did not play in 2009, but netted two goals and three assitsted three more, playing in 18 games in 2008.
Between the posts, the Hokies will have three keepers that the coaches are very confident in. In the mix is Thomas St. Germain, a junior out of Los Alamitos, Calif. Along with him will be fellow junior James Daly out of Long Valley N.J., who has shown potential in offseason workouts and preseason action. The third keeper is freshman Kyle Renfro, who has been battling injuries in the offseason, but has the coaches confident that if he can come back that he has the talent to be a very good goalkeeper.
"Between having Daly, St. Germain, and getting a healthy Kyle Renfro back, our coaching staff feels very pleased with our situation at goalkeeper."
If the Hokies are to succeed in 2010, they will be counting on one of their 13 freshmen to step up and make contributions immediately. This year's freshman class is diverse group, coming from as close as Forest, Va., and as far as Somersby, Australia.
David Clemens out of Ballston Lake, N.Y. will be looked at as a key player on the front line. Clemens had a stellar senior season at Shenendehowa, including All-Capital Region Class AA, first-team suburban, first-team all-state and first-team NSCAA All-Region honors. He was the Section II leading scorer and MVP and he helped his club team, Blackwatch, to the State Cup quarterfinals, a Super-Y National fifth-place performance and the State Cup semifinals.
Another talent up front is Jose "Beto" Velazquez, who comes to Tech from the Los Angeles area. Playing at El Camino Real, Velazquez helped the team to become city and state champions all four years in high school and was named first team all-city and all-league.
Taylor Lemmon out of Lawrence, Kan. was a three-time first-team all-state selection for Marantha Academy. Lemmon scored 87 career goals and was the state leader in goals his junior and senior seasons.
Cody Thayer out of Omaha, Neb. looks to contribute immediately. One highlight out of the four years playing at Millard West H.S. was when he scored the game-winning goal to win state championship with less than three seconds to play.
Along with Thayer, Vaughn Bandy will be a presence in the backfield. Bandy, who played three years of soccer at David W. Butler High School, was also the kicker for the football team, helping them to a state championship his senior year. In soccer, Bandy was a two-time, first team all-conference honoree, scoring 20 goals throughout his career.
Adama Wakai earned national prominence with his club team as a freshman with the US Soccer Academy U-18 North Meck Team, he was selected to the ODP National Select Team, the Super Y National Select Team and National Pool and the Regional II National Pool. Wakai comes to Tech from Charlotte, N.C., and played at Hopewell High School.
Ethan Ashong, out of Pleasant Valley, N.Y., a four-year member at Arlington High School, was a finalist for ESPN Rise Player of the Week award. Ashong tied for the team lead with 17 goals, earning a No. 3 individual ranking his senior season.
Devante Dubose, out of Oakland, Calif., was named first-team all-league his junior season at Bishop O'Dowd High School and captained a team that was ranked 15th in the nation his senior year. He was named the U.S. Soccer Player to be watched and ranked as the 15th best defender in the state.
Mikey Minutillo comes to Tech from San Jose, Calif., where he played for Bellarmine College Preparatory and the US Soccer Academy. He combined for 19 goals and 20 assists in his first two seasons at Bellarmine before joining the US Soccer Academy, where he led his team in goals and assists.
Jed Prater joines Koen Oost as Tech's only international players, with Prater hailing from Somersby, Australia. There at Narabeen Sports he lettered three years and won 2006 MVP in Puma Cup.
Drew Ranahan, another of Tech's four players from California, played at Bishop O'Dowd high school in Oakland, Calif. was named first team all-HAAL, second team all-East Bay and was named to the All-California team by ESPN Rise.
Two more Virginian's join the squad, in Brian Cunningham, from Virginia Beach, and Nick Smirniotopoulos, from Alexandria. Cunningham played varsity soccer at Landstown high school helping them to an Eastern Region Championship serving as a team captain in 2008 and ‘09. Smirniotopoulos played at George Mason high school and was First Team All-State, helping his team to state championships in 2009 and 2010.
Alberto Van Gurp joins as a junior transfer after playing two years at South Florida. Van Gurp is from Reading, Pa., and played high school soccer at Jesuit High.
For updates on Virginia Tech men's soccer, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_MSoccer).