By: Forest Stulting, Sports Editor.
Coming off a year in which Furman Men’s Soccer yielded great success (12-5-5), another year of triumph looks to be in store for the team. The Paladins return 10 of its 11 starters, a host of experienced bench players, and an outstanding freshman class. The Paladins also added Trent Johnson to their already impressive coaching staff.
The team earned a draw in their first exhibition game against tough ACC opponent Wake Forest, and lost a hard-fought game to in-state rival South Carolina 2-1 in their second exhibition game. Though the team had many strong points, there was still a lot to work on. One area of emphasis was communication.
“We had an issue of how we communicated. We let them take the game to us in the first half,” said Sven Lissek, senior and preseason SoCon first team All-Conference and Second team All-American goalie. “I thought we answered in the second half, we were all over them and tied the game.”
The Paladins took what they learned in the preseason to Charleston, S.C. Friday, Aug. 28 to Sunday, Aug. 31, and competed in the annual Aaron Olitsky Memorial Classic. Furman faced two formidable opponents in North Carolina State and Seton Hall.
The Paladins lost 2-1 in a thrilling overtime game Friday to N.C. State. The Paladins dominated the shot chart with a 14-7 edge and a 10-3 edge on shots on goal. However, this was not enough; the Wolf pack converted on a penalty shot 33 seconds into overtime.
Two days later, the Paladins drew 1-1 with Big East member Seton Hall. The shot chart was extremely similar to Friday’s game as the Paladins led with a 15-7 edge on total shots and a 5-2 on shots on goal. Even though the Paladins did not come away with a victory, the team created chances while limiting them for their opposition.
The Paladins will face five more non-conference teams before the start of the SoCon schedule. They will host Northern Illinois Sept. 4, Winthrop Sept 6, Clemson Sept. 15, and Stetson Sept. 18. Furman will also travel back to Charleston to face former SoCon foe College of Charleston Sept. 11.
“We try to focus on us and make sure we have our own game lined up. Force our game on them,” Lissek said.
The Paladins were put into familiar territory when the coaches picked them to finish first.
“We’ve always had a target on our back since I’ve been here. I don’t really read much of that stuff, it’s not an issue for me. We got to try to focus on us and put the work in. That will put us in a good position to win the conference,” Lissek said.
Last year the Paladins lost on penalty kicks to Washington in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. That experience will help the Paladins in preparation for a possible return to the NCAA Tournament.
Lissek said “it was an exciting experience and one to remember. We are ready to fight to get back there.”
Photo courtesy of Furman Athletics.