WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2011
Men’s soccer to face Temple in DeLand before hosting Furman on Sunday
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The last Florida-based road trip didn’t produce the desired results for the JU men’s soccer team. But the Dolphins will have a shot to rebound this week when they face Temple and Furman as part of the Stetson Tournament.

JU (1-2-1) is coming off a 0-1-1 Miami-area road trip last week. Head coach Mike Johnson’s team will look to rebound on Friday when they oppose a 2-1 Owls team on Stetson’s campus in DeLand, Fla. Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m.

The Dolphins will continue to play in the tournament, though JU will enjoy a home game when it hosts Furman (4-1-1) on Sunday at the Ashley Sports Complex at 1 p.m. Fans can also follow that contest by accessing the live stats on JUDolphins.com.

Despite Temple first fielding a team in 1926 and JU starting play in 1957, the matchup will mark the first all-time meeting between the schools. Temple defeated Lafayette and Holy Cross to start the current campaign before falling to Brown the last time out. JU lost to Florida Atlantic before tying FIU last weekend. The squad will make another intrastate trip south to try and climb back to .500.

“We’re at a level now with our program where we should expect to win every time we step on the field while respecting the quality of our opponents,” Johnson said. “It’s going to be a good test. Typical, those northeastern teams tend to be physically tough, work hard and have a sound technical base. They just fight their way start to finish.”

The Dolphins have been boosted by sophomore midfielder Nick Rodriguez’s emergence. The Aurora, Colo. native carries a three-game point streak into the Temple match. Rodriguez, who went his first 21 career games without scoring, netted back-to-back goals versus UMass and FAU and assisted on senior Predrag Ivanovic’s goal in a 1-1 tie against the Golden Panthers. His JU-leading five points is more than twice the next closest teammate as Ivanovic, Tyler Williams and Stefan Durr each have scored one goal apiece (two points).

“Nick’s always been a high-energy guy,” Johnson said. “He comes from a good club background. We knew we were getting a good soccer player. He’s been a victim of us trying to move him around and find where he fits best. He’s a good all-around player and this year’s team is made up of many players like that.”

Defensively, the Dolphins have seen young players mix in well with the veterans. Senior goalkeeper Johnny Foley made a career high eight saves, including two in the second overtime session, and logged a season-best 110 minutes at FIU. Foley also notched his third career shutout after blanking UMass on Sept. 4.

The backline has also supported the fourth-year netminder. Freshman Ashton Pett has started all four of his first collegiate games and logged all 110 minutes in triple-digit field temperatures at FIU. Fellow freshman Henrik Synnes has also been part of a JU unit that has held opponents to a .091 shooting percentage.

Pett and Synnes have fortified a defensive unit led by seniors Casey Tafuri and Tobias Hottner. When the defense and goaltending has been strong, the Dolphins have been successful. JU is 1-0-1 when allowing less than two goals.

Furman enters the Stetson Tournament with momentum. The Paladins only loss came to Duke in the second game and will face Stetson on Friday before coming north to visit JU two days later.

Leading Furman’s attack is Daniel Hojaij. The junior midfielder’s three assists are tied for 15th amongst all Division I players. The Paladins have also been stingy on the other side, holding opponents to a 0.67 goals-against average.

- By Brian Bohl