|School: Appalachian State University|
|Conference: Sun Belt Conference|
|Coach: Jason O'Keefe (3rd Season)|
|2017 Record: 5-8-6 overall, 0-3-2 in conference|
|2017 Final Season Ending Rank: N/A|
|Key Personnel Losses from 2017 Season: Defenders Jeremy Tshongo and John Walrath due to gradueation.|
Five Year Win Total:
|2017 Goals Scored and Goals Allowed: 12 scored, 23 allowed|
|2017 Goals Scored and Goals Allowed Per Game: 0.71 scored, 1.35 allowed|
|2017 Key Statistic: 0.71 goals scored per game|
|Background: The Mountaineers were members of the Southern Conference from 1972 through 2013. They moved to the Sun Belt Conference in 2014. Appalachian State won thirteen regular season titles and one tournment title while a member of the Southern Conference. They have yet to win a regular season or tournament title in the four seasons to date that they have been in the Sun Belt Conference. The Mountaineers have appeared in the NCAA Tournament a total of four times with the last coming in the 1980 campaign.|
|Number Starters Slated To Return in 2018: Nine|
Coach O'Keefe stated, "This is another great class for us here at App. State." He added, "All of these players have one common trait, and that is they are winners. They come from winning environments and have the mentality we are looking for."
Aldo Tarantini – Midfielder – Houston, Texas – Bellaire High School. – First-Team All-District. Played for Texas FC.
Charlie Baird – Forward – Nottinghamshire, England – Outwood Academy – Played for Worksop Town FC.
Parker Cross – Defender – Cary, North Carolina – Panther Creek High School – Scored thirty-eight goals and contributed fourteen assists in his sophomore and junior seasons. Played for NCFC Academy U-19.
Joey Cipicchio – Goalkeeper – Columbus, Ohio – Brown Universtiy – Graduate transfer from Brown where he had a 0.77 goals against average and recorded six shutouts as the stater in 2017. Played for Columbus Crew USSDA academy.
Alex Hernandez – Midfielder – Asheboro, North Carolina – Asheboro High School – Played for USSDA Fusion USSDA Academy. Netted twenty-five goals in three seasons.
Camden Holbrook – Forward – Cary, North Carolina – Green Hope High School – Named North Carolina High School Gatorade of the Year. All-Conference. All-Region. All-State. Played for U-19 NCFC Academy.
Jacob Madden – Goalkeeper – Round Rock, Texas – Played for the Lonestarr SC USSDA Academy.
Mason Robicheaux – Defender – Mandeville, Louisiana – St. Paul's High School – Louisiana Athletic Association All-Star Team. Played for the CYSA Gunners.
Austin Shuping – Goalkeeper – Chapel Hill, North Carolina – Chapel Hill High School – Playedf for NC Fusion Academy U-19 team. Also played for USA Gold Team.
Wyatt Williams – Defender – Wilmington, North Carolina – John T. Hoggard High School – Three-time All-Conference selection. All-Region. Played for the Wilmington Hammerheads.
Ibrahim Zaitawi – Midfielder – Lexington, North Carolina – Ledford High School – Played for NC Fusion.
Alex McGrath – Midfielder – County Durham, England – Durham University – Named Player of the Year at Durham University. Team captain. Solid two-way midfielder.
Dimitris Moraitakis – Midfielder – Nea Genia Ziridis, Athens – Played for the AEK Footbal Club. Averaged ten goals and eight assists at AEK. Member of the National Greece U-17 team.
Christian Licea – Defender – Lutz, Florida – Monteverde Academy – Played for Tampa Bay United.
Philipp Paulin – Midfielder – Oberweis, Austria – Played for UVB Vocklamarkt. Netted five goals last year. Left-sided player.
Outlook for 2018 Season: The Mountaineers were a young team in 2017. As many as ten freshmen saw action in every contest with six to eight first year players regularly in the starting lineup. As a result, Appalachian State was a work in progress last year. Their play reflected the inherent short term price that has to be paid when so many newcomers are making the transition to the college game via on the job training. .
The Mountaineers will enter the 2018 season with the beneift of the experience that the returning players, partiulary the first year players, gained last year. However, they will still be a relatively young team and will likely continue to experience growing pains.
Jason O'Keefe will enter his third season at the helm of the program seeking to continue his efforts to put in place a solid foundation upon which he can build a winning culture. O'Keefe knows what it takes to win at the highest level having served as an assistant coach at Wake Forest, Saint Louis, and North Carolina.
Last year Appalachian State had five wins and six ties while coming out on the short end of the scorebord in eight contests. They netted a total of twelve goals in 2017 while allowing twenty-three. The ratio between those two key statistics will have to significantly change in order for the Mountaineers to experience a bump upward in their victory total.
Rebuilding ususally begins on the defensive side of the ball. There were signs of progress in that regard last year but no matter how hard a team plays defensively, it is tough to prevail when you only score a total of twelve goals. It is noteworthy that App.State scored a total of one goal in thier eight losses last year.
Sophomores Tyquaan Perinchief and Roman Galaska are among returning forwards who the Mountaineers will likely look to for offensive punch up-top. Charlie Baird who played with Worksop Town FC and Camden Hollbrook who was the 2017 North Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year are among the newcomers who could add additional pop to the attack.
O'Keefe will have a solid continugent of returning midfielders to work with. Senior Ian Bennett who had an excellent spring season and junior Austin Hill (1g, 0a) are among returning upper classmen. Sophomores Juan Hernandez (2g, 2a), Reed Hunnicutt (1g, 3a), Justin Pruitt (1g, 0a), Parker Washburn (1g, 0a), and Marc Pfrogner (0g, 1a) all return with a year of experience under their belts. Alex Hernandez out of the NC Fusion Academy is among the members of the freshman class who should add depth in the midfeild. .
Senior Felix Kollmannthaler (1g, 0a) who had an impressive spring season returns to provide a seasoned presence in the backline. He will be joined by sophomores Zeiko Harris (1g, 0a) and Brady Gunter (1g, 0a) who were starters last year. Sophomore Yoni Spencer who saw actioin in six contests last year with four starts also figures to be in the mix in the back. Freshman defender Parker Cross out of the NCFC Academy is among the newcomers who could push for playing time right out of the gate.
Joey Cipppichio, a fifth-year graduate transfer from Brown, will give the Mountaineers an experienced presence in goal. Cipprichio had a 0.77 goals against average and recorded six shutouts last year at Brown. Newomers Jacob Madden and Austin Shuping will also vie for playing time between the pipes.
There are definite signs that O'Keefe has the program headed in the right direction and that the Mountaineers are beginning the steps of transitioning into a consistent winner. Improvement is likely in 2018 but that prognosis should be tempered by the fact that the Mountaineers are still developing and learning how to best merge their individual talents into a cohesive team.
To write a new ending in 2018, Appalacian State will have to become more of a threat on the offensive side of the ball while continuing to improve on the defensive side of the ball. It is unclear at this point who will step forward to provide additional punch and momentum to the attack.
Players usually experience a bump upward in the level of their performance from the freshman to sophomore seasons. The degree to which that does or does not occur will have a huge impact on the level of success Appalachian State has in 2018.
O'Keefe is assembling a roster of very athletic and competitive players who want to be part of a winning program. A breakout season is possible in 2018 but for that to occur a lot of things must fall into place.