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DAHLONEGA, GA - The North Georgia men's soccer team has hopes of taking last season's success that much further in 2011.
"We have a lot of talent individually as this is one of the most talented teams we've had here so far," said junior midfielder Juan Hurtado. If Hurtado is correct, the Saints hope that means advancing further in the PBC Conference Tournament than in years passed. North Georgia was bounced in the first round of the tournament the last two seasons by conference foe Flagler College.
"The team has a lot of depth. If one guy goes off the next guy can step right in," said Gray Phelps, a senior forward. "You will see us try to link up a lot and look for that deadly attack, creating that open scoring opportunity."
That referred to talent will be challenged with the difficult schedule the Saints are faced with this upcoming season. The Saints will play five opponents from the preseason top 25 (according to NSCAA Division II National Rankings) with three of those games on the road, a place the Saints struggled with last season going 1-5-1. The Saints however dominated at home last season with a record of 5-1-2. If they can carry their home success to the road we can expect big things from this year's Saints squad.
The Saints have some new faces this season with experience and the success might lay on their play as well. With two freshman and three transfers coming in, the team needs to find the group to get the right results.
"They've adapted to the team very well. They are taking as part of the family, but also trying to find their own way as well." said head coach Pat Parris. "We need to continue to find team chemistry on the way to finding the right team to put on the field."
There's plenty to be excited about for this season for the Saints. Returning goalkeeper Rade Tanaskovic will be back protecting the net for North Georgia, and that is bad news for the PBC. Tanaskovic finished with six shutouts last season on his way to earning first team all-conference honors. "Rade has stepped up his game a lot," said Parris.
"As a team, we want to score more goals, we're trying to push the attacking side. Defensively we've been outstanding. We did lose an all-conference defender in (Ben) Chedgy, but we have one of the best goalkeepers in Rade (Tanaskovic)," said Hurtado.
The Saints will get a couple of tune-up games in before the regular season kicks off. With two exhibition match-ups on the slate, coach Parris will get an idea of the best 11 players to put on the field at one time. That first exhibition match is Friday, August 19, 2011, as the Saints will travel to Central, South Carolina, to face NAIA opponent Southern Wesleyan. Kickoff is set for 7:00 pm.
The Saints have high expectations for this season and rightfully so. With great defensive play like last year, the Saints will be in every game. If the talent flows into scoring increases from last year, the Saints will win many of those games.