After big 2011 season, men’s soccer hungry for national title

By Eric Albury |
Photo by Eric Albury

The Saints men’s soccer team returns this season with the scent of a national title as fresh as the night they were knocked out of the NCAA Division II tournament last year in a grueling shootout with Lynn.

“It’s very disappointing to get that far and then come up short,” said Coach John Lynch. “But we don’t have any emotional scars, just pride that we made it that far.”

Lynch was named the Peach Belt Conference and NSCAA Southeast Region Coach of the Year for the second time in three years. He even brought one of the best years to Flagler College Soccer in the 2011 season, sporting a conference title, a deep NCAA tournament run into the quarterfinals and 17-3-3 record.

But Lynch isn’t quite done yet. If anything, he’s just as hungry as his team for that coveted title.

“We’re looking to keep that same intensity and confidence as last season, without getting cocky,” said Lynch.

The season has already started off well for Lynch and his squad. The Saints defeated Coker in the season opener 3-2 in a heated double overtime game on Sept. 1, and tied 3-3 against Rollins on Sept. 3.

Among the returning forwards to bring back the intensity that Lynch is looking for is Joseph Toby, who scored a career and team-high 11 goals last season. Returning with Toby is Zach Shanahan, along with newcomers Jean Vega and Jonny Cosgrove.

Toby, who is often described by Lynch as “explosive,” said: “We are just trying to be stronger than last year, and we are looking like that now.”

Returning defenders for the Saints include Adam Jackson, Kevin Keenan and Nick Duncan.

Coming off of a fantastic freshman season is goalkeeper Camp Bissell, who makes his return between the goalposts. Bissell recorded nine shutouts and led the PBC in saves, numbering 86. He also broke a school record, recording 14 saves against Lynn in the same quarterfinal match that brought the Saints’ season to a halt.

Lynch is looking for veteran attitude and play from his forwards, defenders and goalkeeper, as most of the midfield consists of newcomers.

There is, however, one particular new athlete who has caught the coach’s eye and may become someone to look out for.

“Returning freshman Marco Warren is a really great passer and even though he is small, he is a spectacular player,” said Lynch.

The expectations of Warren will fulfill what Toby thinks is needed for the team to make another great season and run for the title.

“We need to talk more and change the ball from side to side,” said Toby. “The new players that we have are really good, and they are here to be a team.”

For Lynch, college soccer is more than just about playing for the team; it involves a higher degree of commitment and focuses just as much on what happens off the field as it does on.

“We want to create a good experience,” said Lynch. “We want to be good citizens, tough on the field, but fair, and also to expect and recognize academic achievements.”

Flagler will look for their second win at Francis Marion on Sept. 8.

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