South Carolina 2015 Team and Recruiting Class Review

School - University of South Carolina
Conference - Conference USA
Coach - Mark Berson (38th Season)
Background - Mark Berson will enter his thirty-eighth season as the head coach at South Carolina in 2015. With 472 wins, Berson has more Division I wins than any other active coach. The Gamecocks were 10-10-0 in 2014 with a 3-5-0 mark in conference play. They topped UAB 1-0 and Kentucky 2-1 to advance to the championship match of the 2014 CUSA Tournament where their season came to an end when they where defeated 2-1 by Old Dominion. South Carolina joined Conference USA in 2005. They won the CUSA Tournament title in 2005 and 2010 and the regular season title in 2011. The Gamecocks have a winning tradition as reflected in the fact that they have had a winning record in thirty-three of the past thirty-seven seasons. South Carolina has earned twenty invites to the NCAA Tournament with the 2011 season being their most recent appearance. The Gamecocks have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen eleven times, to the Elite Eight four times, and the the Final Four twice. In 1993 they advanced to the National Championship game. Forward Mikkel Knudsen was named the 2014 CUSA Freshman of the Year. Knudsen and defenders Mahomoudou Kaba and Braeden Troyer were named to the 2014 All-CUSA Second Team. Midfielder Kurtis Turner was named to the 2014 All-CUSA Third Team.  South Carolina's average attendance at home games in 2014 was 2,602 which was fifth in the country.   
Offense - The Gamecocks always seem to have several players who are very capable goal scorers. It is important to begin by stating that one goal scorer that they will be without in 2015 is Mikkel Knudson (8g, 3a) who led he Gamecocks in goal scoring last year and was named the 2014 CUSA Freshman of the Year. As a result some re-structuring will be required and a degree of uncertainty will exist on the offensive side of the ball heading into the 2015 season. The good news is that a number of very good attacking players are slated to return along with several newcomers who have the potential to contribute immediately. In addition, the Gamecocks will have a lot of different lineup options. Candidates to help fill the void up-front include junior Kevin Walker who sat out the 2014 season due to injury, freshmen Ben Davidson and Tyre Ellingstad and transfer Danny Deakin. Seniors Jeff Torda (3g, 1a), Wes Eads (1g, 2a), Ryan Arambula (2g, 1a), Devin L'Amoreaux (0g, 1a) and Asa Kryst and junior Koty Millard (2g, 1a) are among returning players who should add to the attack. Seniors Joey Hutchinson and Justin Bradley also look to be in the mix as outside midfielders. Junior defensive midfielder Kurtis Turner (3g, 4a) will play a key role on both sides of the ball. Freshman Peyton Ericson could earn minutes as a defensive midfielder or in the back. 
Defense - Reloading will be required in the backline due to the graduation of backs Braeden Troyer (0g, 1a) and Mahamoudou Kaba (4g 1a). Troyer was a four-time All-CUSA selection who started every match he played in during his four-year tenure in Columbia. Kaba was a two-year starter at center back and two-time All-CUSA selection. Junior Ive Burnett (3g, 1a) who has been a starter for the past two seasons returns at left back. Newcomer Torgeir Nyboe from Norway and junior transfer Matt McManis who was a starter last year for Presbyterian College look to be in the hunt for the starting center back positions. Senior Reid Grayson (0g, 1a) who played in eight contests last year with five starts will be among those competing for the starting right back role. Junior Marco Velez returns in goal with the benefit of two solid seasons of play under his belt. Transfer William Pyle from UNCG and sophomore Craig Duggan will also challenge for playing time between the pipes.  

Newcomers - Three Star Recruiting Class  

Danny Deakin - Midfielder - Sheffield, England - Junior transfer from Mercyhurst (Pa). Scored twenty-four goals and contributed twenty-three assists during two season at Mercyhurst. Eastern College Athletic Conference All-Star. First-Team All-Pennsylvania State Athletics Conference. 2013 PSAC Rookie of the Year.

Torgeir Nyboe - Defender - Tynset, Norway - Netted ten goals in eleven games as a center back.

Ben Davidson - Midfielder/Forward - Sugar Land, Texas Strake Jesuit College Prepatory School. All-District selection. 

Lee Hogge - Midfielder - Norfolk, Virginia - Maury High School - Played with Beach FC 96. Conference 9 Player of the Year. First-Team All-State selection. Virginia ODP team member.

Yanis Fekih - Midfielder/Forward - Paris, France - Played for Bayer Leverkusen Academy. Named Best XI of the French high school national championships.

Peyton Ericson - Midfielder - Duluth, Georgia - Northview High School - Played with Georgia United. 6A All-State Team.  6A Freshman of the Year.

Matt McManis - Defender - Greenwood, South Carolina - Greenwood High School. Junior transfer from Presbyterian College where he played 1,261 minutes last year. Played club for SC United. All-State selection.      

Prognosis for 2015 -  The Gamecocks played everyone close last year with the exception of a 3-0 loss to Charlotte at home. In order to win the close games that eluded them last year they will look to veterans Koty Millard, Jeff Torda, Wes Eads, and Asa Kryst to fill the void and then some that exists due to the departure of Mikkel Knudson. Transfer Danny Deakin from Division II Mercyhurst (Pa.) appears to have the greatest chance of the newcomers to contribute immediately to the offense. Ken Walker who transferred in last year from Cincinnati State but sat out the season due to an injury sustained in pre-season could prove to be a difference maker up-top. It is unclear at this point who, if any single player, will emerge as the go-to guy on the offensive side of the ball in 2015. The graduation of Braeden Troyer and Mahamoudou Kaba means that the backline will require significant rebuilding. However, the return of goalkeeper Marco Velez, defensive midfielder Kurtis Turner, and left back Ive Burnett who have been starters for the past two seasons provides a solid foundation around which to rebuild. The ability of the returning players to up the level of their play from last year, the ability of the newcomers to contribute, and the ability of Berson and his staff to effectively merge the newcomers in with the veterans will combine to determine the level of success the Gamecocks enjoy in 2015. The fact that South Carolina finished the 2014 season strong is a good sign for 2015 but the bottom line is that the Gamecocks will have a lot of new faces on the pitch in 2015. As a result it means there are a lot of unanswered questions and it will likely take a little time for them to gel as a team. The Gamecocks will be tested early. They open the season with games at home against Mercer and Georgia Southern and then take to the road to face in-state rival Clemson in what shapes up to be a very challenging contest.    

 

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