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Clemson 2015 Team and Recruiting Class Review

School – Clemson
Conference – Atlantic Coast
Coach – Mike Noonan (6th Season)
Background – Mike Noonan became the head coach at Clemson in 2010 inheriting a program wih a winning tradition that had fallen on hard times. Under Noonan's direction Clemson has rebounded and is once again a factor in the ACC race and the national scene. The Tigers had a banner season in 2014 with a 12-7-3 overall record and a 5-2-1 mark in conference play. They had signature wins over the likes of Providece, Virginia and Coastal Carolina. Clemson advanced past Wake Forest and Notre Dame and defeated Louisville in the championship game to win the program's 14th ACC Conference Tournament title in 2014 and its first since 2001. The Tigers earned the program's 28th invite to the NCAA Tournament and were awarded the number seven seed. They then topped Coastal Carolina 2-1 before their season came to an end after a hard fought 2-1 loss to North Carolina. Clemson has a rich soccer traditioin that includes advancing to the Final Four six times and National Championships in 1984 and 1987. In 2014 midfielder Manolo Sanchez and defenders Phanuel Kavita and Kyle Fisher were named to the All-ACC Second Team. Goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell was a 2014 All-ACC Third Team selection.   
Offense – Clemson returns eight of their top ten goal scorers from the 2014 team that featured a very balanced attack. The biggest shoes to fill on the offensive side of the ball due to graduation are those of midfielder Manolo Sanchez who contributed a total of eight goals during two starting seasons at Clemson.  The Tigers will also be without the services of graduate student midfielder Bobby Belair (2g, 0a) whose determinaion and persistance helped bring a winning mentality to the program. Junior Austin Burnikel (5g, 0a), seniors T.J.Casner (3g, 6a) and Kyle Murphy (2g, 0a) and sophomore Diego Campos (3g, 4a) return up-top to provide the Tigers with plenty of offensvie firepower. Burnikel's athleticism makes him a tough man to contain in the attacking third. Casner's experience and ability to play a variety of attacking roles contribute to his effectiveness. Murphy's work rate, the energy he brings to the pitch, and his nose for the goal adds an additional dimension to the attack. Campos showed the potential for big play ability as a freshman last year that bodes well for his continued growth in 2015. The midfield also looks to be talented and deep. Senior Paul Clowes (2g, 5a), the 2014 ACC Tournament MVP, returns to set the pace. Clowes is a technically sound and soccer savvy linkman with three years of starting experience. Sophomore Oliver Shannon (3g, 3a), a box to box midfielder and solid finisher, returns with the advantage of a year of playing experience under his belt. Juniors Alex Happi (2g, 2a) and Thales Moreno (3g, 3a) out of Montverde Academy return to add yet another dimension to the offense. Moreno adds creativity and great touch on the ball while Happi brings athleticism and a tenacious ball winning mentality to the midfield. Sophomore Saul Chinchila Bonilla (1g, a) also out of Montverde is a crafty 1 vs.1 player with the versitality needed to play up-front or provide cover out of the back. Junior Iman Mafi who now has a year of playing experience at Clemson after transferring in from Gardner Webb is a left footer who is equally effective in the center of the park or as an outside midfielder. 
Defense – Clemson has to contend with the loss of backs Phanuel Kavita, Amadou Dia, and Ara Amirkhanian due to graduation. Senior back Kyle Fisher (3g, 2a) who has been at the heart of the Tiger defense since arriving on campus as a freshman returns to anchor the backline. Sophomore Michael Melvin (0g, 2a) who saw action in thirteen games last year is among other returning backs who should be in the mix for a starting job. Junior Aaron Jones, a midterm transfer from Georgia State is among the newcomers who should be in the hunt for minutes in the back right away. Redshirt junior Joseph Amon and redshirt sophomore Mauriq Hill are among other returning backs who will seek to play a greater role in 2015. Junior goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell who was the starter last year returns to give the Tigers an experienced and very talented presence between the pipes.    

Newcomers – Four Star Recruiting Class 

Coach Noonan stated, "This class continues to raise the profile of our program within South Carolina and nationally."

Michele Bottari – Forward – Prato, Italy – J.L. Mann High School – Played for South Carolina United Battery. Ranked by College Soccer News as the number 42nd player in the class of 2015. All-State selection. South Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year. 

Andrew Burnikel – Defender – Greer, South Carolina – St. Joseph's Catholic High School – Played for CESA 96B Premier. All-Region and All-State. 

Johnny Heckman – Midfielder – Franklin, Tennessee – Centennial High School – Played for Tennessee Soccer Club. Member Region III Olympic Player Development Pool. Tennessee Gatorade Player of the Year.

Trey Langlois – Defender – Jacksonville, Florida – Bishop Kenny High School – Played for the Jacksonvile Futbol Club Academy. Florida Gatorade Player of the Year.

Amit Tal – Defender – Highland Park, Illinois – HIghland Park High School – Played for Chicago Magic PSG.

Aaron Jones – Defender – Suffolk, England – Lynn Grove High School – Junior transfer from Georgia State where he played in thrity-six matches starting thirty-five. Named the to All-Sun Belt Conference Second Team in 2013.  

Prognosis for 2015 – Good things continue to happen at Clemson where head coach Mike Noonan and his staff have turned the corner.  The challenges that Noonan faced when he first came to Clemson in 2010 are now in the rearview mirror. The Tigers will welcome back players who netted thirty of the thirty-eight goals they put into the back of the net in 2014. They look to be in great shape heading into the 2015 season with a very deep group of forwards and midfielders returning along with starting goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell but they have some voids to fill in the back due to graduation. Junior forward Austin Burnikel who contributed three game winning goals last year is among a very balanced and capable group of returning goal scorers. Senior Kyle Fisher is a prime timer who will be counted on to anchor the backline. Clemson will enter the 2015 season with a good distribution of experienced upper classmen and a group of sophomores that includes forward Diego Campos, midfielders Oliver Shannon and Saul Chinchilla Bonilla and defender Michael Melvin who now have the benefit of a year's experience under their belts that should give the Tiger's a boost. The bottom line is that Clemson looks to be a very deep and athletic team in 2015 but losing backs Phanuel Kavita, Amadou Dia, and Ara Amirkhanian leaves questions on who will fill their shoes. Clemson looks to be a group that will enter the 2015 campaign believing that what they accomplished in 2014 was the preamble to greater accomplishments. The competition in the ACC will again be fierce and clearly no one is going to look past the Tigers anymore but if everything falls into place Clemson could have another banner season in 2015.      


Posted in 2015 Team Reviews

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