|School – Furman|
|Conference – Southern Conference|
|Coach – Doug Allison (23rd Season)|
Background – The Paladins were 8-5-6 overall last year with a 6-2-2 mark in conference play. They won the Southern Conference title for the second consecutive year in 2015 topping ETSU 1-0, a team that they lost to 2-0 during regular season play, in the championship game. Furman earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row last year and tied South Carolina 1-1 but failed to advance when they came out on the short end of a penalty kick shootout in the first round of play.
Furman has been a powerhouse over the years in the Southern Conference. Paladin head coach Doug Allison is the winninest coach in Southern Conference history and has been named the Conference Coach of the Year seven times. Furman has been in the national spotlight at times due to the success the program has enjoyed and due to the standouts who have been part of the program.
The Paladins have won the Southern Conference Tournament title a total of thirteen times and secured a berth in the NCAA Tournament a total of ten times.
Allison was named the 2015 Southern Conference Men's Soccer Coach of the Year. Midfielder Adrian McInnis was named to the 2015 All-Southern Conference First Team. Forward Lewis Hawke and midfielder Eli Pinner were All-Southern Conference Second Team selections. Forward Josiah Baker and defenders Dalton Souder and Noah Teplitzky were named to the Southern Conference All-Freshman Team.
Offense – Furman returns its top five goal scorers from the 2015 team. That group was responsible for fifteen of the twenty-two goals the Paladins placed in the back of the net last year.
The attack will be powered by senior forward Lewis Hawke who has been the go-to guy in the Furman offense for the past two seasons. Hawke produced five goals in 2015 and nine in 2014. Senior Bobby Edet (3g, 1a) who has been a starter since arriving on campus as a freshman also returns to add an additional dimension to the attack. Edet scored a team leading seven goals in 2013, five in 2014 and three in 2015. Sophomore forward Josiah Baker (2g, 1a) should also figure prominently in the attack.
Due to graduation, Furman will be without starting midfielders Adrian McInnis (1, 0a) who battled with injuries during his tenure at Furman, Tony Santibanez (1g, 0a) who was a two-year starter, and Kevin Pahl (1g, 3a) who was a two-year starter. Seniors Eli Pinner (3g, 2a), Marco Carrizales (2g, 2a) and Marco Ortiz (1g, 0a) are back from the 2015 squad and should all play key roles in the midfield in 2016. Ortiz has been a starter for the past three seasons.
Junior transfer Zach Johnson, who has two years of experience under his belt at Tulsa, is among the newcomers who should contribute immediately and help fill the void that exists in the midfield. Freshman midfielder Conor Sloan who honed his skills playing for the South Carolina Battery Academy is among others who should compete for playing time.
Defense – Last year Furman held opponents to a total of eighteeen goals. They will enter the 2015 campaign without back Eric Steber who was a four-year starter and goalkeeper Sven Lissek who was a three-year starter. Both were difference makers who will be missed.
Lissek's impact in anchoring the defense for the past three seasons is reflected in his 28 career shutouts and 0.64 goals against average in 2013, 0.59 goals against average in 2014, and .70 goals against average in 2015. His departure in particular creates a big void that must be filled.
Junior Jonathan Smith who stepped in for Lissek when he was injured last year returns in goal. Highly regarded freshman Ben Hale who was a member of the U-19 National Team and played with the FC Dallas Academy should challenge for the starting role in goal.
Junior Kyle McLagan who was a starter last year and senior Kevin Edelmann who was a starter in 2014 but missed a large portion of the 2015 campaign due to injury return to give the Paladins a strong pairing at center back. Sophomore back Dalton Souder who gained valueable experience last year when injuries thrust him into a starting role at center back also returns. McLagan, Edelmann and Souder should provide a solid foundation upon which to build the defense.
Newcomers – Four Star Recruiting Class
Associate Head Coach Anthony Esquivel stated, "This group represents what our program stands for both on and off the pitch. We are focused on bringing in top quality students who are dedicated to being a positive influence in the classroom, in the Greenville community, as well as on the playing field."
John Branisa – Forward – Houston, Texas – Memorial High School – Played club soccer for the Houston Express. Member of the Region III pool. All-District.
Max Fisher – Goalkeeper – Salisbury, North Carolina – Salisbury High School – Plays club for the North Carolina Fusion Academy Team. All-CCC selection. Area Goalkeeper of the Year. Member of the North Carolina ODP Team and REgion III Team.
Rocky Garcia – Midfielder – Lawrenceville, Georgia – Berkmar High School – Four-time All-Region selection. Played for Gwinnett Soccer Academy.
Ben Hale – Goalkeeper – Frisco, Texas – Wakeland High School – Member of the U.S. U-19 National Team. Played for FC Dallas Academy. Central Conference Goalkeeper of the Year. Member of the Region III and North Texas ODP teams. Ranked by CSN as the number 89 player in the class of 2016.
Sean Langan – Defender – Greenville, South Carolina – St. Joseph's HIgh School – 1 A All-State and All-Region selections. Played for Carolina Elite Soccer Academy.
Emery May – Defender – Wichita, Kansas – Trinity Academy – NSCAA All-American. All-Metro and All-State. Played club soccer for Sporting Blue Valley SC. Region III ODP Team.
Cole McLagan – Forward – Lee's Summit, Missouri – Rockhurst High School – All-State and All-Region selection. All-Western Offensive Player of the Year. Played for Sporting Blue Academy. Member of the Region III pool.
Conor Sloan – Midfielder – Murrells Inlet, South Carolina – St. James High School – All-Region selection. South Carolina Battery Academy Team. Member of the Region III ODP team. Ranked by CSN as the number 158 player in the class of 2016.
Brendan Weigley – Defender – Safety Harbor, Florida – East Lake High School – Played for the Clearwater Chargers Academy.
Zach Jackson – Midfielder – Cypress, Texas – Junior transfer from the University of Tulsa where he played in thirty-eight games in the past two seasons. He played for Texas SC Houston and the Houston Dynamo.
Prognosis for 2016 – Furman will again be among the most talented, if not the most talented team, in the Southern Conference in 2016. The Paladins look to be the team to beat once again but a great deal of parity now exists within the six team Southern Conference so the margin for error is pretty small.
The offense should be good with Lewis Hawke and Bobby Edet the "go-to" guys up-top. The Furman attack was good but not vintage by their own standards last year with a total of only twenty-two goals. With the top five goal scorers coming back that looks to be an area where there is an opportunity for improvment in 2016.
Goalkeeper Sven Lissek who was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2015 Southern Conference Tournament has been a difference maker for the Paladins and will be missed. However freshman goalkeeper Ben Hale is a prime time recruit with a lot of highly competitive expereince under his belt. Hale is capable of filling the gap but will likely experience a learning curve.
The return of a healthy Kevin Edelmann along with Kyle McLagan is a big plus and should provide stability on the defensive side of the ball at the center back position. Avoiding the key injuries that hampered Furman last year has to be a key factor in 2016.
Furman is always a competitive side and Doug Allison does an excellent job of merging the individual talents of his players into a unified team. However, Furman has not had a deep run in the NCAA Tournament in a long time. You have to go back to the 2002 season to find a year in which the Paladins advanced past the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The potential is always there for a great season at Furman as this is a program with a winning tradition. Whether or not the Paladins have the ingredients to make a significant jump in 2016 and make a mark on the national scene is difficult to project because a lot of things are going to have to fall in place in order for that to happen.