Memphis Soccer Set For Battle With Defending NAIA National Champ on Saturday
March 20, 2009
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The Memphis men's soccer team will take to the pitch at the Mike Rose Soccer Complex on Saturday at 11 a.m., for their third exhibition match of the season. The Tigers will do battle with the defending NAIA National Champion Bethel Wildcats. The 2008 crown was the first ever championship for the squad from McKenzie, Tenn.
"Obviously we have a top team in Bethel coming in on Saturday and they are coming off of a great season," said Memphis head coach Richie Grant. "We are pleased to be bringing in such a good opponent because we need to get another spring game in."
Bethel returns nearly all the players who helped them capture the NAIA championship on Dec. 6, over the University of Rio Grande. Leading the way for the Wildcats again this season will be sophomore Dawyne Smith, a native of Kingston, Jamaica. Last season the newcomer paced Bethel with 12 goals and nine assists. Also returning for the Wildcat attack will be Armando Orozco, a junior from Mexico City, Mexico. Orozco has 10 goals and 12 assists for Bethel last season.
The Wildcats also return two players that earned NAIA All-American honors last season. Felix Obilo, a junior midfielder from Nairobi, Kenya, earned All-NAIA second team honors, while goalkeeper Massimo Collu-Marchese brought home All-NAIA honorable mention honors. Collu-Marchese posted a 1.01 goals against average for the Bethel squad while racking up 71 saves.
Bethel is coached by 2008 NAIA Men's Soccer National Coach of the Year Melvin Belong. Belong, a native of the Republic of Suriname, will enter his third season with the Wildcats in 2009. Belong is 27-13-3 in his two seasons as the head coach at Bethel.
The 2009 version of the Memphis men's soccer team will offer a new look for Memphis soccer fans. The Tigers said goodbye to six seniors in the fall, opening the door for an impressive group of youngsters who showed their potential last season. The group is led by C-USA All-Freshman selection Parker Duncan, a native of Johnson City, Tenn. The forward tallied six goals to lead the Memphis squad last season. He will also be joined in the line-up by Thomas Shannon. Shannon, who played both defender and midfielder last season for the Tigers will look to shift his focus primarily to defense this season as Coach Grant looks to replace All-C-USA first team selection Michael Coburn and his backfield mate Thomas Hyland.
Michael Goodlett returns to the fold for his final season as the Memphis goalkeeper. The Bolton, Miss., native put up a 1.30 goals against average while accumulating 76 saves in goal for the Tigers in 2008. Goodlett will be challenge for the starting job by three players who were newcomers to the Tiger line-up last season; Cody Gibson, Jordan Leedle and Harrison Cheatham. Gibson, a native of Spring, Texas, got the opportunity to play 45 minutes in goal for the U of M in their opening contest of the Spring, shutting out FC Dallas of Major League Soccer for 40 minutes.
Memphis will follow up their match with Bethel with another home exhibition match on Sat., Mar. 28 against Irish prep program Colaiste Ide. Colaiste Ide has produced several Memphis players including current Tigers Brian Farrell and Rory O'Connor. Colaiste Ide also produced Memphis head coach Richie Grant, who went on to a succesful career as a defender at Green Mountain College, a NAIA-affiliated institution located in Vermont.