Aug. 5, 1997
1997 Boston College Soccer Outlook
Head coach Ed Kelly is eagerly awaiting the start of the 1997 season. With lofty expectations for his returnees and high hopes for his newcomers, Kelly believes Boston College will be dramatically improved over 1996. In fact, Kelly and his players have their sights set on a fifth straight berth in the BIG EAST Tournament -- and beyond.
"Compared to 1996, I believe we'll be much more competitive. I think we can compete with the best teams, given our combination of veterans and newcomers," he said. "How quickly the two groups come together will be the key."
Kelly notes the importance of a "good start" for the Eagles. Given the fact that his starting defensive unit could consist of two freshmen, two sophomores and just one senior (should the freshman goalkeeper earn the position), Kelly knows a strong showing in the early matches will bolster the unit's confidence and may well propel the Eagles into post-season play.
In addition to the defense, the Eagles appear solid in the midfield with "two very creative players in the central midfield," according to Kelly. Those two players -- team co-captains Asgeir Asgeirsson and Keith McDonald -- will be expected to direct the team's attack.
The forward line will be anchored by senior Willie O'Keeffe, a Cork, Ireland product who led the Eagles with six goals in 13 matches last fall.
The Eagles' hopes for 1997 also rest on the contributions of the team's seven newcomers -- two forwards, two midfielders, two backs and one goalkeeper.
Hamblin, who hails from Bristol, England, joins the Eagles after spending five years at St. Mary Redcliffe Temple. There he led SMRT to the two Gloucester Youth Cup titles, recording a 14-3-1 record in those two seasons.
"I think the competition for the starting goalkeeper spot will be beneficial," Kelly said. "Derick has collegiate experience, while Chris is a very strong goalkeeper. I expect he'll be able to come in and be a major part of our defense."
Cornoni made an immediate impact as a freshman, starting all 17 matches. His strong effort earned him BIG EAST All-Rookie team accolades at year's end. Stein, too, stepped right into the Eagles' line-up, playing in and starting 16 matches.
"These three players -- Mat, Paul and Andy -- played in virtually every match last year," Kelly said. "Hopefully, the experience pays dividends this year, especially with the (then) freshmen having overcome any nervousness. They should be more confident and, hopefully, more effective."
Kelly also has high hopes for one of this year's freshman defenders -- Paul Bourke. The Cork, Ireland product is expected to fill the starting sweeper spot, left open by the graduation of All-BIG EAST performer Tim Lavin. Bourke comes to Boston College after four successful years with Casement Celtic F.C.
"I believe we should have a pretty tight defense," Kelly said. "Last year we gave up a lot of goals, but I think we've made it solid for this year."
Asgeirsson, who joined the Eagles in 1996 after playing two years at the University of Richmond, had a solid campaign last fall. He finished the season as the team leader with 14 points -- four goals and six assists -- in 17 matches. His point production this year will be crucial if the Eagles are to achieve their goals.
"Asgeir needs to step up for us," Kelly said. "He has the experience. He can be one of the best players in our conference and he can be a true All-American."
McDonald has been a solid performer in each of his first two seasons, and Kelly expects his junior year to be his best yet.
"I'm certain that Keith will have a banner year for us," the head coach said. "He is an up-and-coming leader of our team, and he needs to assume the leadership role left by Anthony Buckley and Keiron O'Brien (both graduated)."
Lynch's contributions this fall will be a key factor in the team's success. After starting all 18 matches as a freshman, Lynch played in all 17 contests last fall, making 10 starts. This fall he is expected to resume his role as a full-time starter.
Kelly has several options available as he seeks to round out the midfield unit with a "left-side starter." Junior Ken Florian, sophomore Tim Phair and freshman John McCann will all contend for that spot. Florian and Phair both got a taste of the collegiate game in limited action last fall. McCann, who hails from Barrington, RI, joins the Eagles after enjoying great success in his high-school and club competition.
As a result, Kelly had to re-organize his attack. Luckily, Willie O'Keeffe quickly stepped in and proved to be a true goalscorer who could make plays. O'Keefe, who missed the 1996 preseason camp as well as the season's first four matches, led the Eagles with six goals last fall. This year, Kelly's confident O'Keeffe will continue to blossom.
"Willie returns and should be even more effective than he was last fall," the head coach said. "Having missed preseason and then some games, he took a little time to get settled. This season, I expect Willie will be ready to go right from the start."
Joining O'Keeffe on the Eagles' "frontline" will be a pair of freshmen -- Brian Mollo and Kevin Boyd. Both are expected to make big contributions in 1997.
"Brian and Kevin come from two of the premier soccer clubs in the country," according to Kelly. "With their backgrounds and their skills, I'm confident they'll adapt well to the college game and make their presence felt."
Mollo played at the Lighthouse Soccer Academy in Florida last year, while Boyd led his La Jolla (CA) Nomads club in scoring last year (21 goals and 17 assists).