Monmouth 2017 Team and Recruiting Class Review

School:  Monmouth
Conference: MAAC 
Coach: Robert McCourt - 14th Season
2016 Record: 6-9-3 overall - 5-5-0 in conference
Final Season Ending National Rank: NA

Five Year Win Total:

2012:  11  

2013:  8

2014:  11

2015:  13

2016:  6

Key Losses from the 2016 Team: Forward Dave Nigro (5g, 7a), midfielders Brandon McCarthy (1g, 0a) and Miguel Alves (0g, 2a) and goalkeeper Eric Klenofsky due to graduation. 
2016 Goals Scored and Goals Allowed: Twenty scored. Twenty-seven allowed
Key 2016 Statistic: Monmouth scored a total of twenty goals in 2016 as compared to forty-one in 2015.

Background: Monmouth was 6-9-3 overall in 2016 with a 5-5-0 mark in conference play.

After entering the season with high expectatiions they experienced key injuries that kept at least five starters off the pitch for large portions of the season. As a result they didn't have the type of season last year that many initially thought they would.

Monmouth has a winning tradition. During the thirteen seasons to date that Rob McCourt has been at the helm of the program the Hawks have won nine regular season conference titles and five conterence tournament titles. They have appeared in the NCAA Tournament five times with the last being the 2014 season. 

Monmouth was a member of the Northeast Conference through the 2012 season before beginning play in the MAAC in 2013.  

Eric Klenofsky was named the 2017 MAAC Co-Goalkeeper of the Year. Forward Dave Nigro (5g, 8a) was named to the 2017 All-MAAC First Team. Klenofsky, midfielders Anderson Asiedu and Colin Stripling and defender Zachery Pereira were 2017 All-MAAC Second Team selections. Defender Andy Martinez was named to the All-MAAC Freshman Team. 

Number Starters Returning: Six

Offense: The Hawks must fill the gap that exists due to the graduation of forward Dave Nigro (5g, 8a) who was a four-year starter and three-time All-MAAC selection.

Sophomore Geoff Schaefer (2g, 1a) who played in sixteen contests in 2016 with six starts and junior Jalil Blalock (2g, 1a) who appeared in fifteen games in 2016 with eight starts are among key returning forwards. Sophomore Donovan Pollock who is a transfer from Old Dominion and freshmen Anes MrKulic and Alex Hajj are among others who will be counted upon for offensive firepower.

Redshirt senior midfielder and team captain Colin Stripling (4g, 0a) returns to power the attack in the midfield. Stripling, who has three years of starting experience under his belt, missed the last nine games of the 2016 season due to injury. Look for Stripling to set the pace in the midfield in 2017. Seniors Jake Areman (1g, 4a) and Andrew Gee (0g, 1a) who were starters last year also return to give the Hawks a solid necleus of experienced midfielders. . 

Sophomore midfielder Johnny Artunes who only appeared in one contest in  2016  due to injury is now healthy and should add yet another dimension to the midfield. George Akampeke is among several highly regarded members of the recruiting class who should compete for playing time in the midfield right away. . .  

Defense: The backline looks to be a team strength in 2017 with senior Joey Gudzak a two-year starter, junior Zach Periera (1g, 1a) a two-year starter and sophomores Andy Martinez and Mike Luke (2g, 1a) who now have tha advantage of a starting season under their belts all slated to return.

Junior transfers Henrique Joauim from Brevard College and Luke Bromley from Florida Southern are solid and experienced central defenders who have the potential to contribute immediately.  

The key loss on the defensive side of the ball is goalkeeper Eric Klenofsky who was a four-year starter and four time All-MAAC selection. Klenofsky who had thirty-two career shutouts, missed eight games in 2016 due to a broken hand.

Junior Transfer Bobby Edwards who was the starter at Saint Josephs in 2014 and 2015, senior Chris Seager who started five contests last year and freshman Sean Murray are among returning goalkeepers who will vie for the vacant netminder role.   

Newcomers

Coach McCourt stated, "This is a great group of young men who are all extremely talented players and fantastic students. We have added a good balance of experienced players with exciting incoming freshmen."  He added, "This class adds talent and depth to every position."

Anes Mrkulic - Forward - Highlands, New Jersey - Gill Saint Bernard's - Played for NJCSA Academy. Scored twenty-three goals and contributed twelve assists as a senior. All-State selection. 

Santo Arena - Midfielder - Holmdel, New Jersey - Holmdel High School - Played for NJCSA Academy U-18 and U-16 teams.

Sean Murray - Goalkeeper - Fanwood, New Jersey - Scotch Plains Fanwood High School - Played for PDA. First-Team All-State. Had forty-three shutouts in high school.

Alex Hajj - Midfielder - Wayne, Pennsylvania - YSC Academy - Played for Continental Delco. Member of 2015 ODP Region 1 Player Pool.

Jake Treiber - Midfielder - Marlton, New Jersey - Cherokee High School - Played for Marlton SC GPS Premier 98 - All-State selection as a junior and senior. Had twenty-six career goals and twenty-two career assists.

Luke Bromley - Defender - Rugby England - Princethorpe College - A junior transfer. Played for Coventry City FC Academy. Played for Florida Southern where he was a Second Team All-Sunshine State selection.  

Daniel Frisch-Harmon - Midfielder - Wall, New Jersey - Wall High School - Played for Wall Soccer Club. All-State selection as a junior and senior. Netted a total of twenty-six career goals and contributed seventeen assists at Wall High School. 

Donovan Pollock - Forward - Melbourne, Australia - Sophomore transfer from Old Dominion where he started thirteen games last year. Played for Adelaide United U-20 Team. 

George Akampeke - Midfielder - Bolgatanga, Ghana - Defensive midfielder with ability to play a variety of positions. 

Bobby Edwards - Goalkeeper - Parsippany, New Jersey - St. Benedict's Prep. - Junior transfer from Saint Joseph's where he started a total of twenty-eight games in 2014 and 2015. 

Henrique Joaquim - Defender - Jundiai, Brazil - Junior transfer from Brevard College. Experienced center back. 

Prognosis for 2017: The Hawks seek to rebound after an injury plagued 2016 season in which they never fully seemed to gel as a team. The healthy return of redshirt senior midfielder Colin Stripling whose season was cut short due to injury and sophomore midfielder Johnny Antunes who missed the season due to injury, a seasoned backline, and a recruiting class that includes five newcomers who have collegiate playing experience bodes well for improvement in the level of wins in 2017.

The midfield and the backline look to be team strengths. The biggest question mark pertains to offensive firepower and the void that exists in that aspect of the game due to the graduation of forward Dave Nigro (5g, 8a). Someone will need to have a breakout season on the offensive side of the ball in order for Monmouth to significantly up their offensive productivity. At this point, it is unclear who, if anyone, will emerge to fill that role. .

Stripling (4g, 0a) could prove to be the differece maker on the offensive side of the ball in 2017. He is the lone returning player who scored more than two goals last year. Forwards Geoffrey Schaefer and Jalil Blalock who each contributed two goals last year are among returning players who could add punch to the attack.

On paper, Monmouth looks to be athletic and deep in all positions. As a result there should be plenty of competition for playing time across the board. Unless something unexpected happens, chances are pretty good that the Hawks will rebound in 2017. Just how that will translate in terms of wins will likely hinge on improvement on the offensive side of the ball, the ability of the newcomers to contribute, and the ability of the coaching staff to effectively merge the eleven member recruiting class in with the returning players.

Monmouth is used to entering the season as the frontrunner as they did last year when they were the preseason favorite to win the MAAC title. Despite a six win season last year, noone will look past the Hawks in 2017. Nonetheless, Monmouth will enter the season in the unusual role of being the hunter instead of the hunted.

Double digit wins seasons have become the norm at Monmouth under McCourt. After a disappointing season last year and a two year absence for the NCAA Tourney field, the 2017 team will likely feel a need to prove themselves and a sense of urgency in that regard that they didn't have in the past.

It will be interesting to see how the Hawks respond to that challenge. .