The 2012 Southern Polytechnic State University Men's Soccer team sets it's sights for another exciting season. Coming off a record year, where the Hornets won 17 games, advanced to the National Tournament Elite Eight, won the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) Tournament, placed six players on the All-Conference teams, and finished the year ranked #6 in the NAIA National Coaches Poll, repeating that same level of success will be hard. The program lost, to graduation, some of it's most stellar players. Three time All-Conference defender, Marcos Mendez, two time All-Conference midfielder, Sean Grisham, All-Conference defender Diego Nicholson, and All-Conference and SSAC Tourney MVP forward, Jumol Harewood all played their final games last year. Included in that group was their most consistent defender, Chris Szalwinski, and four year player Rani Alkoptan. "Replacing those guys is impossible," says sixth year Head Coach Kom Momeni.
The good news is that the 2012 Hornets still have some capable players coming back. Three time All-Conference, 2009 All-American, and 2011 NAIA All-Tournament forward Emeka Maduka is expected to keep up his high level of play, as he leads the Hornets attack for his fourth and final year. He is complimented by Senior captain Andre Santos. "Both Andre and Emeka have so much technical ability and soccer savvy, that they will be a handful going forward," says Momeni.
On the other side of the ball, in the back, the Hornets return Junior captain and two year starter, Gabe Warner. On the opposite side of the back line, returns SSAC All-Freshman outside back, Tyler Woodruff. Behind them, in his final year in Marietta, is the 6'4" German GK, Dennis Kramer. Senior center- back, Khis Hammock, will be expected to be a regular starter, as he was a sporadic starer last year. "The guys in the back-line have had some great competition to harden them, and will be called upon to hold things together all year. We will not be as explosive going forward, as we were in the past, so defensively, these guys will be asked to do more," Momeni states.
The recruiting class is deep and versatile. First Assistant Coach, John Sprague, has brought in a combination of local talent, transfer students, and international players. "John has done a fantastic job of bringing in the right mix of young and experienced players from many backgrounds. We have identified our most pressing needs, and John has worked tirelessly to get these players here. We expect them to live up to the high standards that have been set by previous recruiting classes."
The Hornets are ranked #1 in the SSAC Preseason Coaches Poll. With the loss of so many important players and the injection of so many new ones, only time will tell if they are worthy of such a ranking. "Once again, our schedule will be very tough and everyone will give us their best effort on game day. This season will be a great challenge for these young men, and our program as a whole."
The Hornets open up preseason on Thursday August 2nd, and travel up to Tennessee to play Milligan College in their season opener, on August 25th.