Men’s soccer off to strong start heading into conference play

Franklin Bogle, Sports Reporter

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App State men’s soccer is off to a hot start early in the 2019 season. In seven games, the Mountaineers have gone 5-2, outscoring their opponents 10-6. 

“The guys made a commitment to come back early this summer. We returned a lot of guys, and everyone got on our board and is executing the way we want to,” head coach Jason O’Keefe said.

The early success is caused by many factors. Several newcomers have scored their first career goals, like true freshman attacker Nick Rogers, who has one goal on the season. Returning attackers from last season have also scored. In total, seven players have accounted for the Mountaineers’ 10 goals. 

The chemistry and unselfishness has helped the Mountaineer goal scorers find the back of the net.

“The passing has been really good. We talked about it, and it doesn’t matter who scores the goals, as long as we get it done,” senior midfielder Alex McGrath said. McGrath is one of the team’s captains and has two assists this year.

Another reason for the team’s success is redshirt freshman goalkeeper Jacob Madden. Madden has allowed an average of .86 goals a game, registering 26 saves on the year. Madden took over as starting goalkeeper after longtime Mountaineer goalkeeper Jake Chasteen graduated after last season. 

“We’ve told Jacob that he’s not replacing Jake, he’s creating his own legacy. He’s come in and exceeded everything; he’s not only done what he needs to do, but he’s bailed us out with some spectacular saves,” O’Keefe said.

“From the beginning, we’ve talked about defense as a team. It starts with those guys and midfield, and the back six, and they’ve just done their job to make my job easier,” Madden said. 

The team also thrives under McGrath’s, along with several other key returners. Senior midfielder Austin Hill returns after a second-team all-Sun Belt selection last year. The team’s leading goal scorer returns, as well. Camden Holbrook, a sophomore forward, scored six goals last season. Holbrook scored a goal in a 1-0 victory over American on Sept. 8. 

“As a captain, I try to show up every day and bring my best because it’s about the collective mentality. At the end of the day, it’s about how we play as a unit,” McGrath said.

The team has maintained a solid scoring attack, while playing team defense. With Madden playing well and the passing game at its best, App State look to compete for the Sun Belt crown this season. 

 

Stats accurate prior to Wednesday, Sept. 25’s game vs. UNC Asheville