2002 Men's Soccer Capsule - Defense: A Bluprint for Winning

Nov. 22, 2002

The 2002 campaign for the Jacksonville University men's soccer team marked the Dolphins' first double-digit win season in three years and although the Dolphins fell short of reaching their second consecutive Atlantic Sun Championship final, they will go down as one of the best defensive teams in JU history.

Second-year head coach Bob Moullin has led the Dolphins to back-to-back winning seasons and this season may have been his best coaching job yet as the Dolphins were unexpectedly hit hard with injuries throughout the entire season, resulting in many new faces seeing action every game.

"Obviously, we were a bit disappointed with the way the season ended considering we made it to the finals last season and had high aspirations of making it again," said head coach Bob Moullin. "We were a very young team and with only one senior, who missed half the season due to an injury, getting significant playing time, we still played very well and exceeded expectations. As a result of injuries, our depth was tested and we held up as many young players stepped into starting roles. I was extremely proud of the way we came back in games - that showed our true tenacity."

JU finished the season on a sour note falling to rival UCF, 2-1, in an overtime heartbreaker in the semifinals of the Atlantic Sun Tournament. What was most impressive about this year's team was the determination they showed in qualifying for the A-Sun Championship. After winning back-to-back conference games at home against Campbell and Gardner-Webb, respectively, the Dolphins went on the road and tied Georgia State and lost to A-Sun regular season champ Mercer. Sitting at 3-2-1 in the conference, the Dolphins reeled off three-straight victories, two against conference opponents, including a thrilling overtime victory over Florida Atlantic, clinching a spot in the A-Sun Championship and eventually locking up the second-seed.

Junior keeper Greg Williams (Hopewell, N.Y.) was one of two Dolphins to earn Atlantic Sun All-Conference First-Team honors after not appearing in any games his first two seasons at JU. Williams led the league with a 1.14 goals against average and tied for the league lead with four shutouts. His 1.14 GAA ranks as the third-best single-season GAA in team history. As a team, JU had a 1.08 goals against average, which is the best GAA in the 45-year history of JU soccer. Junior defender Nick Comerford (Gainesville, Fla.), the Dolphins other First-Team All-Conference selection, played a major role in the record-setting defense. He helped lead the Dolphins to a league-leading five shutouts, which ties for third most in a single season, and only 21 goals allowed in 18 games. Comerford also recorded a career-high two assists in a 5-2 win over Charleston Southern. Sophomore forward Richard Blackburn (Jacksonville/Orange Park) was the lone Dolphin selected to the All-Conference Second-Team. Blackburn led the conference with 10 assists and his 0.56 assists per game was 18th-best in the nation. He led the team in every offensive category including assists, goals (8) and points (26), finishing second in the league in that category. Overall, the Dolphins had seven different players score at least two goals or more during the season and ten freshmen appeared in at least two games each. The Dolphin defense had the best goal differential (+17) in the league, scoring 38 goals, while surrendering only 21.

The Dolphins finished with the best overall record in the conference with a .611 winning percentage. Although many uncertainties began with the season, many new faces stepped up and played major roles for the Dolphins this season.

"In the end, I can say that I was really proud that we finished second [in the A-Sun] and the fact that we had a really good season. But I am also quite optimistic about next year because of the fact that we only lose two seniors and we return so many players that got a chance to show what they can do. We will be a very experienced team next season with many more seniors than this year, but we still need to improve, so the spring and off-season workouts will be crucial. My goal is to improve our schedule each year, so when it comes time to begin conference play we will be ready to compete for the Atlantic Sun Championship every year."