Back to Basics

Aug. 25, 2004

After spending last six years building JU women's soccer into one of the best programs in the Atlantic Sun Conference, former Dolphin standout Mike Johnson returns as head coach of the JU men's soccer program for which he once starred. Johnson's transition will be made easier thanks to the return of nine starters from last year, including five seniors and a former all-conference defender who missed the entire 2003 season due to injury.

The hiring of Johnson paid immediate dividends as the Dolphins enjoyed their most productive and spirited spring session in recent years. Fifth-year senior goalkeeper Greg Williams and fifth-year senior defender Nick Comerford have helped Johnson provide strong leadership and direction with their work ethic on and off the field.

"The team had a successful spring, showing a new attitude and higher performance level than at any time last year," said Johnson. "We are a very talented and balanced unit with youth and experience."

With senior forwards Richard Blackburn and Ryan Potts also back in the starting lineup, the Dolphins have the nucleus to return to the upper echelon of the Atlantic Sun Conference and challenge for a spot in the NCAA College Cup.

"We know we have the potential to play at a high level," said Johnson, who led the JU women's soccer team to the A-Sun title and NCAA College Cup in 2000. "But we need to start expecting to win on a daily basis in order to turn the corner and change the direction of the program."

Seniors Richard Blackburn and Ryan Potts return as the Dolphins' top two scorers up front. Blackburn tied for second on the team with seven points last season, scoring a goal and handing out five assists, while Potts was second on the squad with three goals and an assist. Just two years removed from posting 26 points (8g, 10a) en route to all-conference honors, Blackburn has proven he can score in explosive fashion.

Sophomore Tommy Krizanovic will provide support up front after scoring three goals as a true freshman. He showed more consistency during spring practice and will be counted on to add a much-needed scoring punch. Redshirt freshman Kevin Hole could also prove to be a spark after missing the 2003 season with a knee injury.

The midfield is the Dolphins strongest area thanks to a deep and talented group of returnees.

Brett Wagner

Redshirt junior Brian Blackburn, junior Nuno Cordeiro and sophomore Brett Wagner will be counted on to help organize JU's offense and defense. Blackburn was second on the team with four assists a year ago, but it was Wagner who stood out as the Dolphins top midfielder during the spring. Cordeiro made 11 starts during the 2003 campaign and has grown into a reliable midfielder.

Sophomores Tyler Stansberry and Lonnie Bascome will also make an impact in 2004. Stansberry tied for second on the team a year ago with seven points (2g, 3a), while Bascome's speed makes him difficult to mark. Junior Alex Sisemore will also see action in the midfield after playing in 15 matches last season.

The return of Nick Comerford is a key for JU's success. After earning First-Team Atlantic Sun All-Conference honors in 2002, Comerford missed all of last season after suffering a knee injury in the preseason. His presence in the back will be key in the development of the Dolphins' most inexperienced unit.

Junior Brian Kallman also returns after starting all 17 matches in 2003. Junior Frank Macias will compete with four true freshmen - Brian Cocciolo, J.T. Hanna, John Marquart and Austin Earl - for playing time alongside the two experienced backers.

Greg Williams

The Dolphins' relatively inexperienced defense should be bolstered with a fifth-year senior in goal. Greg Williams, who has started 29 of the last 34 matches for JU, returns for his final season after posting shutouts in all three of the Dolphins' victories last season. His career 1.24 goals against average (GAA) ranks second all-time at JU and he sports seven career shutouts. Williams's organizational skills and work ethic make him the team's undisputed leader.

Junior Gerrit deBoer and redshirt freshman Loren Shumard will compete to be the backup in goal.

Johnson has put together a schedule which will challenge the Dolphins right out of the gate. JU will open the regular season by hosting intra-state rival USF, which boasts the nation's third-best recruiting class in 2004, as well as perennial power South Carolina, which handed the Dolphins a 4-0 loss in Columbia last season. After playing in non-conference tournaments at UNC-Wilmington and Lehigh, JU opens Atlantic Sun Conference play with home matches against the league's top two teams - Florida Atlantic and UCF - in early October. The Dolphins also host Lipscomb, Belmont and Stetson at the Ashley Sports Complex, where JU has an all-time winning percentage of 72 percent.