Aug. 14, 2002
The 2001 Jacksonville University soccer team was only one win away from a berth to the NCAA Tournament, falling to Mercer in the championship game of the Atlantic Sun Championship.
With 19 players returning, including seven starters and nine of the 11 who started in the championship game, second-year head coach Bob Moullin feels his team is poised to take the next step.
"We had a lot of players get a taste of the postseason for the first time last year," Moullin said. "We saw the happiness on the faces of the Mercer players and now we want to go further and make sure we win the championship game."
The 2002 edition of Dolphin soccer will be a younger squad with only three seniors returning - goalkeeper Mike Miller (East Brunswick, N.J.) and defenders Steve Command (Brighton, Mich.) and Dov Ribnick (Wellfleet, Maine). Moullin has also brought in 10 newcomers, including nine Florida products. The roster now has a distinct Florida flavor with 22 of the 29 members on the team hailing from the "Sunshine State."
"I think our newcomers will make the team better overall," Moullin said. "Some may not contribute on the field right away, but the competition for playing time will be fierce and ultimately raise the level of the squad."
The Dolphins will need to maintain a more consistent level of play after starting out 5-1-1 before finishing 8-6-1 last season. Moullin expects the added pressure of making the championship game and the competition for playing time to keep the quality of play at a high level.
Replacing two starters up front may be the biggest test facing the Dolphins in 2002. JU will rely on sophomore Carlos Serrano (Jacksonville, Fla.), who was second on the team last season with 18 points (7 goals and 4 assists) and Richard Blackburn (Jacksonville, Fla.), who scored a pair of goals in only seven starts. Both players were named to the A-Sun All-Freshman Team last season.
Junior Hans Guiscardo (Montevideo, Uruguay) and freshman Dion Jagroo (Orlando, Fla.) will also compete for time up front.
JU has a host of talented midfielders, including junior transfer Kevin Flanagan (Middleburg, Fla.) and Brian Blackburn (Jacksonville, Fla.), who missed the entire 2001 season with an injury. Flanagan and Blackburn, along with juniors Stephen Decker (Gainesville, Fla.) and Sean Steed (Kissimmee, Fla.) should ease the loss of Justin Lloyd, who has joined the Dolphins as an assistant this season. Junior Paul Kelley (Peachtree City, Ga.) made 10 starts last season, while two other returning players and five newcomers will be pushing for time in the midfield.
The Dolphins are deepest and most experienced in the back. Steve Command, who was last year's Dolphin MVP, and junior captain Brett Surrency (Gainesville, Fla.) each started all 15 matches. Junior Nick Comerford (Gainesville, Fla.) started all but one match, while returning players Dov Ribnick and Joe Adona (Ormond Beach, Fla.) also received playing time last season.
Senior Mike Miller returns after every minute of every match in goal last season. Miller recorded a sparkling 1.43 goals against average and had four shutouts in his first season as a full-time starter.
Junior Greg Williams (Hopewell, N.Y.) and freshman Gerrit deBoer (Yulee, Fla.) will also battle for playing time.
Moullin feels the competition in the A-Sun will be even this year with nine teams battling for four spots in the conference tournament. The Dolphins have raised the bar with the non-conference schedule, adding South Floirda, who made the NCAA Tournament last year, and perennial power South Carolina.
JU will play nine home matches in 2002, compared to only four in 2001. The home-field advantage could have a huge impact on the Dolphins' record this season, as they have lost only two matches at the Ashley Sports Complex over the last two seasons.