Men's Soccer

Vikings Soccer Team Hoping To Crack Top 15 Again

CONTACT: Jeff Foley (518) 629-8085 or (518) 373-1262

FOR RELEASE: Immediate, Tuesday, September 4, 2001

What will second-year head coach John Meehan do for an encore?

Last year, after transplanting to Hudson Valley Community College from Michigan's St. Clair High School, where he was named "1999 Coach of the Year" by the Port Huron Times Herald, Meehan led the Vikings 2000 men's soccer team to a No. 14 national ranking, a 10-4 regular-season record and the NJCAA Division III Region III playoffs. Without Meehan at the helm in 1999, Hudson Valley was 7-8-2.

While the Vikings lost to SUNY Cobleskill, 3-1, in the first round of the 2000 playoffs, simply reaching the post-season proved positive.

"We're on the map now," Meehan said. "Other coaches have noticed us and are giving us some respect. That has more to do with our returning players than myself."

As proof of the respect Hudson Valley has quickly gained, the Vikings are an Honorable Mention selection on the 2001 preseason NJCAA Division III Coach's poll. While Hudson Valley just missed cracking the top 15, they play five teams this season that are on that list: Macomb Community College (No. 5) of Michigan on Sept. 8 and 9, in Michigan; Herkimer Community College (No. 1) on Sept. 15, at Herkimer; SUNY Cobleskill (No. 13) on Sept. 19 at Hudson Valley; Broome Community College (No. 11) on Oct. 6, at Broome; and Mohawk Valley Community College (No. 4) on Oct. 13, at Hudson Valley.

Hudson Valley's captains – returnees Dan DiFiore (Averill Park High), Craig Hotaling (Columbia) and Chris Mahigian (Tamarac High) – say they're looking forward to the competition.

"We're not going to improve by playing teams that are worse than us," said Hotaling, a defenseman who contributed six goals, including a game-winner, and 10 assists last season. "The only way we're going to move up the list is by beating the teams ahead of us."

The Vikings return four starters from last year – the three above-mentioned players and goalkeeper Stanley Kowalczyk (Sanford High, Florida), who recorded five shutouts in 2000. The team also brings back a host of second-year athletes who saw significant time last season and may work their way into the starting rotation this year.

Gone are Mountain Valley Conference All-Stars Ryan Bombard (Catholic Central High), Brad Fuller (Shenendehowa High) and Evan Gilligan (Columbia High). Bombard is now playing at UAlbany, Fuller is at SUNY Plattsburgh and Gilligan is playing at Le Moyne College.

"Last year, I had some very strong individual talent," Meehan said. "This year, I look at my team and I see a higher level of overall team talent. I'll be able to go much deeper into my bench, which will benefit us in the long run."

Thirty-eight players came out for Hudson Valley's team this year. After injuries and cuts, Meehan expects to carry 26 players, allowing for full scrimmages during practice sessions and frequent substitutions during games.

"If you're a starter for another team and you know you're going to be playing 70 or 80 minutes, how would feel about playing all that time against two or three different guys?" Meehan said.

Of the 26 men currently on the roster, 24 hail from Section II high schools.

"We did a lot of work in the summer," said Mahigian, a midfielder who had four goals and a team-high 20 assists in 2000. "All the captains helped gather players from the area. We went and talked to players we knew, guys we had played with or against, and told them we were nationally ranked last year."

"This area is filled with such strong soccer players, thanks to the parents and youth coaches in the area." Meehan said. "How can you go wrong? I don't want to say it's as easy as shopping on the Internet, but the talent is there. I'm not a miracle worker, I'm just the recipient of good players. So, since the talent is already there, my job is to get everybody to gel and play as a unit."

The Vikings open the 2001 campaign with a home game on Thursday, Sept. 6, at 4 p.m. against Paul Smiths College. Hudson Valley defeated Paul Smiths 5-1 last season. The Vikings then travel to Meehan's old stomping grounds – Michigan – for a game against the No. 5 Division III junior college in the nation, Macomb Community College, and Schoolcraft Community College, an NJCAA Division I team.