PENSACOLA, Fla. - The West Florida men’s soccer team returns to its home field on Saturday to play No. 7 Lynn under the lights at 7:30 p.m. The Argonauts (2-3-1) are looking to reverse their fortunes, as they are without a win in their last four contests. UWF faces Lynn on Saturday and William Carey on Tuesday as tune-ups for the Gulf South Conference opener on Friday, Oct. 1 at Ouachita Baptist.
COMPLETE GAME NOTES
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A LOOK AT LYNN: The Lynn University Fighting Knights are a perennial power from the Sunshine State Conference, and they entered this week with an NSCAA national ranking of No. 7 and a regional ranking of No. 1. LU comes into the weekend with a record of 5-2, as the Knights are coming off a disappointing 3-0 loss to No. 17 Rollins on their home field. Lynn is averaging two goals per game on offense, and Ewan Clarke (five goals) and Kyle Conrad (four goals, one assist) have been the danger men up top early this season. Goalkeeper Alessandro Salvatore has played every minute for LU, and he holds a goals against average of 1.14 with 19 saves in seven games.
CONFERENCE SCHEDULE: The Argonauts don’t start GSC play until next weekend, but four teams kick off their conference schedules on Friday. Ouachita Baptist opens up on the road at Delta State on Friday, Sept. 24. On that same day, Harding travels to play Alabama-Huntsville. Harding will then face Delta State on the road on Sunday, and OBU visits UAH on Sunday as well. The Argonauts were picked to win a fifth straight GSC championship in the preseason coaches’ poll.
INJURY TROUBLES: The Argonauts have had a run of bad luck to start the season, especially up top as forwards Matthew Aldred and Stephen Munoz have been out with injuries. Aldred played the first three games but has been out ever since, and Munoz is still looking to see his first action on the field. Midfielder Bruno Ferreira also came out early in last Friday’s game against Tampa and was unable to play on Sunday versus Saint Leo. Daniel Martini, Jason Ream and Andre Verardi have been asked to pick up the slack in the meantime.
OFFENSIVE WOES: UWF is going through a rough patch on offense, having been shut out in each of the last two games. If West Florida can break through and score first, their chances of a win are better. The Argonauts are 2-0 this year when scoring first, but when the opponent scores first UWF is 0-3-1.
SSC FOES: West Florida is looking for its first win over a Sunshine State Conference on Saturday against Lynn. The Argos are 0-3-1 against the SSC this year, including losses to Rollins, Saint Leo and Tampa and a tie against Florida Southern. Last season UWF went 2-3-1 against the SSC, including wins over Florida Southern and Saint Leo, losses to Lynn, Nova Southeastern and Rollins, and a tie against Tampa. After Lynn, the Argos have one more SSC opponent on the schedule this season - an Oct. 23 meeting at home against Nova Southeastern.
GSC PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: Matthew Aldred and Daniel Martini have each earned GSC Player of the Week honors this season. In 2009, the Argonauts have four GSC Players of the Week and seven GSC Defenders of the Week.
IN THE NATIONAL RANKINGS: Midfielder Frank Cope leads the Argonauts with three assists, and that is good enough to rank him 24th among all NCAA Division II players entering this week. The Mobile, Ala. native has totaled five assists in his career at West Florida.
MILESTONE WINS FOR ELLIOTT: Bill Elliott is approaching his 200th career win as a men’s soccer head coach, as he currently stands at 195-94-26 (.660) in his 16th season at UWF and 18th overall. Elliott led Tennessee Wesleyan to a 17-14-1 (.547) record in two seasons before amassing a mark of 178-80-25 (.673) at West Florida. The Tennessee grad also has 115 wins in his career as a women’s head coach after two years at TWC and nine leading the UWF women. Combining his marks as both a men’s and women’s coach, Elliott is 310-146-32 (.668) in 27 combined seasons.
OVERTIME BATTLES: Two of the Argonauts’ first six matches have gone into overtime so far this season, as UWF pulled away in the 3-2 win over Tennessee Wesleyan and battled Florida Southern to a 2-2 tie. UWF had two matches go into extra time in 2009, both resulting in a tie. In the team’s semifinalist run in 2006, the Argos went into overtime five times, winning twice and drawing three times.
EXPERIENCED SQUAD: The Argonauts return 10 of 11 starters from a year ago. Leading the way are four-year seniors Nikola Kljaic and Matt Tanner, both of which have been a part of multiple GSC championship teams. The roster this year includes seven seniors and nine juniors. Forward Jimmy Merritt is the lone freshman to have earned a significant role on the team thus far, seeing action in all six games while scoring once and adding one assist.
FOUR-PEAT: With their fourth straight GSC title in 2009, the Argos became the first men’s team in school history to complete such a task. The UWF men’s golf team won three in a row on two separate occasions (2001-03, 2006-08). On the women’s side, the Argos golf and tennis teams have each won five conference titles in a row; the women’s tennis team accomplished the feat from 1998-02, and the women’s golf team has won the last five in a row (2006-10).
PRESEASON ALL-GSC: UWF landed four players on the preseason All-GSC team, including unanimous picks Richard Dixon, Nikola Kljaic and Matt Tanner. All three of Dixon, Kljaic and Tanner were All-GSC selections last year as well, and Dixon became the second UWF player in program history to be named GSC Player of the Year. The fourth selection was junior Frank Cope, last year’s GSC Tournament Most Outstanding Player and a breakout candidate in 2010.
EYES ON 2011: Brosnaham Park in Pensacola, the site of the 2006 NCAA Division II Championships and numerous GSC tournaments, will play host to the national championships in Division II men’s and women’s soccer again in December 2011. In 2006, the UWF men’s team advanced to the national semifinals, falling to eventual national champion Dowling on penalty kicks at Brosnaham Park. UWF also hosted the 2007 national championships in Orange Beach, Ala.
KEITH SAVAGE UPDATE: One of the top players in GSC history, UWF grad Keith Savage is currently in his third season of professional soccer. The Gulf Breeze native was drafted and played for Chivas USA of the MLS in 2008, making three starts and appearing in six games. In 2009, he was picked up by the Portland Timbers of the USL-1. After fighting an injury early in the 2010 season, Savage is back on the field, where he has appeared in nine games with seven starts while notching one assist. The Timbers have clinched a playoff spot, and playoffs are set to start Oct. 4.
MORE ALUMNI UPDATES: Former All-American defender and graduate assistant coach Eduardo Oliveira has taken a position as assistant coach for the Brazil U-20 women’s junior national team. Also, former Argonaut midfielder Matt Williams received an invitation for a professional tryout in New Zealand.
FRESHMAN CONNECTIONS: Of this year’s freshman signing class, Tanner Duttweiler and Jimmy Merritt each have connections with returning members of the team. Duttweiler, a midfielder from Niceville, is a former teammate of redshirt freshman and defender Jake Pratt. Meanwhile, Merritt played alongside sophomore and fellow attacker Will Henderson as a club player in Jacksonville.
GSC ALL-TIME TEAM: UWF boasted 21 total selections to the GSC All-Time Soccer Team, including eight men’s players, it was announced by the conference office over the summer. Bill Elliott was named the top coach in the 14-year history of the GSC, and former Argos Nolan Intermoia, Eduardo Oliveira and Keith Savage were first team selections.
UWF Selections to GSC All-Time Team:
First Team: Nolan Intermoia (2004-08)
First Team: Eduardo Oliveira (2003-06)
First Team: Keith Savage (2003-07)
Second Team: Pat Cannon (1998-01)
Second Team: Felipe Lawall (2003-06)
Second Team: Jimmy McHenry (2006-07)
Honorable Mention: Juan Garcia (2005-07)
Honorable Mention: Jon Stefansson (1998)