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Men's Soccer

1996 Boston College Soccer Season Outlook

As this was going online, the 1996 pre-season polls were not yet available. If they were, who'd really care?

Ed Kelly has been a head coach for 11 years, including eight at Boston College. His players have seen the highs and lows of this remarkable game. They know that what happens on the field is all that counts.

Last year, however, was a case in point. In the BIG EAST Coaches Preseason Poll, Boston College was picked seventh among the league's 12 teams. At year's end, Kelly and his team had proven the pollsters wrong and captured the 1995 BIG EAST regular-season crown. The Eagles finished the season with an 11-5-2 record, including an 8-1-1 league record. Soccer News' final poll ranked BC 21st in the nation.

This year, the Eagles' pre-season positioning means nothing. Their pre-season conditioning and preparation will determine their fate.

Kelly, however, does recognize the magnitude of the loss of All-America forward Paul Keegan and All-Conference goalkeeper Marc Bala. Keegan completed his collegiate career as a two-time All-America selection and a three-time All-BIG EAST first team choice. The school's career scoring leader with 83 points, Keegan has since earned a spot on the New England Revolution of the new Major League Soccer.

Bala started 46 matches and played in 55 matches in his collegiate career. He finished with a 25-15-5 record, a 1.06 goals against average and 14 shutouts. The backbone of the Eagles' defense, he was a two-year All-Conference honoree and played a key role in leading the team to the 1995 BIG EAST regular-season crown.

With Bala lost to graduation, Kelly will turn to senior Chris Bauer. The Austin, Texas resident has proven a capable keeper in his first three seasons at the Heights. In 27 appearances, including 13 starts, Bauer has a 10-3-1 record and a 1.24 goals against average. Last year, he allowed just two goals in 340 minutes.

Junior Derick Cividini will provide the Eagles with depth in goal. Cividini made one brief game appearance last year, his first year on the team.

In 1995, Boston College allowed its opponents just 18 goals in 18 matches (1770 minutes). The goalkeepers were credited with eight shutouts. The defenders, as so often happens, received less recognition. Rather, they just did their jobs - methodically, consistently and, at times, brilliantly.

The 1996 season promises to be another strong one in the Eagles' backfield. Seniors Daryl Gioffre, Tim Lavin and Brian Mahon all return as does junior Mat Dunn. Gioffre, Lavin and Dunn each started all 18 matches last fall. Mahon saw action in 17 contests, making eight starts.

Gioffre has established himself as one of the conference's premier backs. A hard-working, skilled defender, Gioffre gives Kelly a veteran to anchor the back line. The Rye Brook, NY resident spent most of his freshman season in the midfield, but since that time he has started 34 matches at back. All totaled, he has played in all but one match since arriving at Boston College in 1993, and has started all but one of those contests (52 games played, 51 starts).

Lavin, too, is an experienced and athletic defender. Talented as well, he captured BIG EAST All-Conference second team honors last fall. He joined the team midway through his freshman year, but wasted no time in establishing himself as a leader on the field. Since his arrival, he has played in 39 contests and started 38 matches.

Dunn, who joined the Eagles in 1995 after playing his freshman season at the University of New Hampshire, played a key role in the team's title run last fall. Starting in all 18 matches, Dunn scored two goals as well as protecting the BC net.

Kelly has also added two stellar freshmen to the defense. Paul Cornoni from Millis, Mass., and Andrew Stein from Framingham, Mass., both figure to contribute in 1996. The duo are already familiar with Kelly's style of play, having played club soccer for him for the past five years.

Kelly again has high expectations for his midfield unit. Senior Keiron O'Brien, junior Anthony Buckley, and sophomores Keith McDonald and Chris Lynch all enjoyed fine 1995 seasons. A talented playmaker, O'Brien has played in 32 games in his first two years with the Eagles. His play often overlooked because of Keegan's flair, O'Brien nevertheless was a key factor in the team's success. He tallied one goal in 1995, but more importantly notched five assists and organized the team's play at both ends of the field.

Buckley returns after a sensational sophomore season. In 18 matches, he tallied eight goals and eight assists, tying for team-high scoring honors. At year's end, he collected BIG EAST All-Conference first team accolades. The Cork, Ireland resident has displayed his scoring prowess over the past two seasons. As a freshman, he conquered some nagging injuries and scored two late-season, game-winning goals to secure a BIG EAST Tournament berth for the Eagles. Last year, five of his eight goals were game-winning tallies, including his incredible 22-foot overtime blast into the upper-left corner of the net that gave the Eagles a 1-0 victory over nationally-ranked Seton Hall.

After a freshman campaign in which all eyes were focused on him, McDonald should find the 1996 season more enjoyable. Having settled in, made his presence known and continued his personal string of helping teams to championships, McDonald will now be asked to just pick up where he left off last fall. Having played four years of club soccer for Kelly before joining his coach at Boston College, the skilled McDonald knows precisely what is expected of him - consistent play.

Lynch was a pleasant surprise for the Eagles last fall. Unproven at first, Lynch utilized his athleticism and experience to earn a starting berth. By the middle of the season, the then-freshman had become very comfortable with the college game and the new style of play. After going scoreless through eight matches in September, the versatile Chagrin Falls, Ohio resident contributed one goal and three assists in the season's final 10 matches.

Kelly also expects solid contributions from seniors Paulo Jorge Neves and Sean Yokota, and junior transfer Asgeir Asgeirsson. Neves earned his bachelor's degree this past May, but will take advantage of his final year of collegiate eligibility. His experience - 34 games played - will prove valuable to the Eagles. Yokota, too, has played in 34 games and given the Eagles some solid play. Asgeirsson joins the Eagles after enjoying two stellar seasons at the University of Richmond. As a freshman, he earned Colonial Athletic Association Rookie of the Year honors. Last fall, he led the Spiders with 20 points (seven goals, six assists).

Senior Paul Johnston, Buckley and Lynch are the team's top forwards. With Keegan gone, the scoring load will fall largely upon these individuals. Buckley is a proven scorer who will play up front as well as in the midfield.

Johnston's first three seasons at the Heights have been plagued by injury. In 1993, he overcame a right knee injury to make immediate contributions to the program. In 14 matches, the Dundalk, Ireland native recorded two goals and eight assists. In 1994, he battled injuries to play in 11 matches and record six points. Last fall, Johnston again fought injuries, but again proved what he can do. In six matches, he tallied two goals.

Entering his 12th season as a collegiate head coach and his ninth at Boston College, Kelly looks forward to the 1996 season. Despite losing three starters, including an All-American and an All-Conference selection, he believes his team has the ingredients to repeat - and exceed - their 1995 accomplishments.

"We're going into the season with a low profile," Kelly said. "We're going to work very hard, but we're not doing a lot of talking."

Nevertheless, Kelly has again set his sights on post-season play.

"I believe we can be very competitive in the BIG EAST Conference. We have some very good talent and we have some depth," the head coach said. "Still, our main goal is to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament."

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