JMU utilized tenacious team defense, an opportunistic attack, and a determined mindset in 2018 to become the first team from the Colonial Athletic Association to advance to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament since the 2004 season.
Departures and Gaps – James Madison will be without six seniors from the 2018 team. Key departures include forwards Aaron-Ward Baptiste (7g, 5a) who was a 2018 All-CAA Third Team selection and Billy Metzer (3g, 2a) who was a four-year starter, midfielder Yannick Franz (1g, 3a) who was a 2018 All-CAA First Team selection, and defenders Thomas Shores who was an All-CAA Second Team honoree and Soheyl Alipouri-Rafi.
Opportunities for Improvement – Effectiveness on both sides of the ball out of set pieces. Consistency of regular season play.
Coach's Recruiting Class Comment – Paul Zazenski stated, "We are very pleased with the 2019 recruiting class overall. This year's class boasts a wide variety of talent spanning from club, academy and overseas. The majority of the class is coming from the state of Virginia, with many of them having played with and against each other for quite some time now. This group should provide us with depth and some dynamic qualities to an already veteran team."
Summary – James Madison had a highly successful season last year in which they secured the CAA regular and tournament titles and advanced to the Elite Eight. There are plenty of familiar and experienced faces around in 2019 which bodes well for the possibility of continued success. The level of success will depend in large part on how well several players who were excellent complementary players last year perform when called upon to assume a greater role in 2019.
Talented, unified and hungry are ingredients that when combined create a dangerous team. Last year the Dukes did a really good job of effectively merging together their individual talents into a unified team that was confident but also hungry to prove that they could compete with anyone. That confidence and hunger was reflected in JMU's play in the NCAA Tournament.
Redshirt junior forward Carson Jeffris (8g, 4a) who appeared in twenty-two games last year with five starts is among the returning players who will have the opportunity to assume a greater role in the attack and help fill the playmaking void that exists up-top due to the departure of Aaron Ward-Baptiste (7g, 5a) and Billy Metzer (3g, 2a). Seniors Brennen Burton, Lewis Long IV (1g, 0a) and Max Poelker (0g, 1a) who were in supporting roles last year are among other returning forwards who will seek to increase their minutes in 2019. Newcomer Dennis Mensah out of the Bethesda SC Development Academy is a promising goal scorer with the potential to add an additional dimension to the attack up-top.
Senior Manuel Ferriol (9g, 5a) returns to power the attack in the midfield. Ferriol is a difference maker with the abiity to take control of a match. He will be a tightly marked man so the emergence of others to add balance to the offense is a critical success factor for JMU in 2019. Senior Fernando Casero (1g, 1a) is a rock solid holding midfielder who will be the glue that holds everything together. Senior Niclas Mohr adds an additonal element to the attack out wide with the ability to maintain possession as well as switch the point of attack with well played crosses. Senior Tim Estermann (3g, 0a), junior Petur Thorsteinsson (0g, 1a), and sophomore Tyler Clegg (1g, 0a) are among other returning midfielders who figure to be in the mix. Sophomore transfer Jeremy Jaquier from Longwood University, a Big South All-Freshman Team honoree last year. and highly regarded freshman Clay Obara, the 2019 Gatorade Virginia Boys Soccer Player of the Year, are among the midfielders in the recruiting class who could contribute immediately.
James Madison allowed a total of only thirteen goals last year while posting thirteen shutouts. Senior center back Brandon Clegg (1g, 1a) and junior left back Tom Judge (2g, 2a) who were Third Team All-CUSA selections last year return to anchor what looks to be a solid backline. Sophomore Melker Anshelm who now has a year of starting experience under his belt and redshirt junior Shaun McKenna (1g, 2a) who appeared in eighteen games with eight starts last year are among other key returning defenders. Defender Prince Loney-Bailey who honed his skills with the New England Revolution looks to be among the new recruits who will be in the mix for playing time. Redshirt junior TJ Bush, a 2018 All-CAA First Team selection, returns to give the Dukes a very talented and composed shot stopper in goal.
Clay Obara – Midfielder – Virginia Beach, Virginia – Frank W. Cox High School – XNamed the 2019 Gatorade Soccer Player of the Year. Played club for Virginia Rush.
Prince Loney-Bailey – Defender – Cambridge, Massachusetts – Northwood School – Named to the 2017/2018 U.S. Development Acadey Eastern Conference Best XI. Played for the New England Revolution.
Terrene Hibbler – Midfielder – Hampton, Virginia – Played for DC United. Played for Virginia Beach United in the USL. Virginia and Region I ODP Team.
Dennis Mensah – Forward – Alexandria, Virginia – Played for Bethesda SC Development Academy. Member Virginia ODP team. Played for Arlington Soccer in 2017.
Jeremy Jaquier – Midfielder – Villars-le-Comte, Switzerland – Sophomore transfer from Longwood University. Named to the Big South All-Freshman Team in 2018. Played for the Switzerland Youth National Team.
Evan Paez – Midfielder – Alexandria, Virginia – Played for Bethesda SC Development Academy. Member of the Virginia ODP Team. Region 1 ODP pool.
Nathan Paolozzi – Goalkeeper – Vienna, Virginia – Paul VI Catholic High School – Played for McLean. All-State First Team selection. All Washington Catholic Conference selection.
Sloan Sullivan – Defender – Ellington, Connecticut – Played for Oakwood SC Development Academy. Can play in the back or as holding midfielder. Named to the academy playoff Best XI team in 2017.
Ethan Del Hierro – Midfielder – Ashburn, Virginia – Rock Ridge High School. Played for Loudoun SC. Invited to two national soccer training centers. Two-time All-Conference selection.