Men’s soccer draws from local talent pool

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Freshman midfielder Ian Bennet dribbles the ball upfield during Saturday’s 5-1 victory over High Point.

Jess Lyons

Appalachian State men’s soccer introduced seven new freshmen to the team for the 2015-2016 season, and for the first time in years, the class is entirely from North and South Carolina.

“I think the quality that we have in this recruiting class is one of the top ones we’ve had since I’ve been here,” head coach Matt Nelson said. “A lot of them knew each other coming in, so we have pretty good relationships. Three of them knew each other from teams, so they played together for the last three or four years and came in with good relationships and communication.”

This season the team welcomes five players from North Carolina and two from South Carolina. The Mountaineers now sport 16 players from North Carolina alone.

“When we’re recruiting we don’t really look at where they’re from,” Nelson said. “Obviously, we want the in-state kids and the local kids that are going to help us. And we were lucky enough that our top choices were North Carolina and South Carolina kids that were interested in us and the school, and wanted to be a part of what we’re building.”

The team’s roster currently includes players from the United States, England, France and Australia, with a high volume of players all coming from the Southeast region of the U.S. The benefit is that many of them have played with or against each other in the past, helping them connect as a team now.

Junior forward Stephen Chapman mentioned knowing junior midfielder Donovan Japp before his career at App State. Both attended Northwest Guilford High School.

Chapman also expressed how having previous relationships among current teammates made it easy for the team to come together as a whole.

“The freshmen are so great,” Chapman said. “They haven’t had to have any adjustment at all. When they came in, they stepped up and I think they played really well and that’s what we love to see from freshmen.”

Like Chapman, freshman midfielder Ian Bennett also attested to the benefits of having familiar faces join the team. Bennett knew some of his current teammates, such as freshman midfielder Daniel Avila, from his soccer career in high school at New Hanover and as a member of a club team. Both Avila and Bennett were members of Triangle Futbol Club Alliance 96 before joining the Mountaineers this season.   

“It’s kind of special being the only class coming in from the Southeast,” Bennett said. “I think we all come together because we’re from around the same area and that molds us together as a team.”

The team, which is predominantly underclassmen, will use their geographic familiarity and thriving team chemistry to make a run at the Sun Belt championship in the Mountaineers’ second season of conference play.

They open the regular season play Friday in Jacksonville, Florida, against North Florida. The match is set to begin at 8 p.m. 

Story by: Jess Lyons, Senior Sports Reporter 

Photo by: Dave Mayo, Appalachian State Athletics