|School – Monmouth
|Conference – Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference
|Coach – Robert McCourt (11th Season)
Background – The Hawks were 8-6-6 overall in 2013 with a 7-1-2 mark in their first year of play as a member of the MAAC. Monmouth secured the regular season MAAC title and advanced past Manhattan in penalty kicks before coming out on the short end of another penalty kick shootout with Quinnipiac in the championship match. The Hawks struggled in the month of September going 1-5-2 against a competitive slate of non-conference opponents that included North Carolina and Wake Forest but they began to win on a consistent basis when they got into conference play in October. Defense was Monmouth's strong suit last year as they held opponents to a total of sixteen goals with only three of those goals coming in twelve contests in MAAC play. Eric Klenofsky, who became the starting netminder in October, established new MAAC records with a 0.22 goals against average and a .914 save percentage. However Monmouth's inability to finish scoring opportunities, they only netted a total of sixteen goals, hampered their win-loss record.
Offense – Coach McCourt has taken steps to strengthened the Hawk's offensive productivity with the addition of a solid recruiting class that features senior forward Dom Sarle who transfers in from UC Santa Barbara after sitting out the 2013 season and junior forward Jelani Williams who is a transfer from St. John's. Both have the potential to bring a lot of firepower to the Monmouth attack. The fact that Sarle and Williams have already begun classes at Monmouth and will participate in spring practices is a big plus. Sophomore forward Dave Nigro (3g, 1a), who looks to be a more complete player in 2014 after a year of starting experience, should also provide punch to the attack. Senior Bryant Avalos is a very productive box to box midfielder who should also help spark the offense. Grad students forward Jacob Rubinstein (4g, 1a) and midfiedler Francis Navarro (2g, 3a) are among other returning players with the potential to contribute to the attack. Sophomore midfielder Migual Alves, a transfer from St. John's with U.S. National Team experience, is another newcomer with the ability to add value on the offensive side of the ball from the get-go.
Defense – Junior David Comacho (1g, 2s) is a rock solid holding center midfieder who is a tenacious on ball tackler. Look for Comacho who has been a starter for the past two seasons to be among those who set the pace for the Hawks in 2014. Senior Matt Jeffrey, the 2013 MAC Defensive Player of the Year, returns to anchor what looks to be a very tough blue collar type backline that should be able to hold their own with anyone in the country. Jeffrey has three years of starting experience under his belt. He will be joined by experienced outside backs senior Derek Luke (0g, 2a) and junior John Egan (0g, 1a). Newcomer sophomore center back Kegan Ellis, a transfer from the University of Texas at Brownsville whose resume includes playing with the U-20 Trinidad and Tobago National Team, should contribute immediately. Ellis has also already begun classes at Monmouth and therefore will participate in spring practices. Jeffery and Ellis have the size and athletic ability to also be a factor on the offensive side of the ball out of set pieces. Monmouth looks to be in great shape between the pipes with both sophomore Eric Klenofsky, a 2013 All-MAAC Second Team selection, and senior Stephen Graziani slated to return.
Newcomers – Three and A Half Star Recruiting Class
Dom Sarles – Forward – Huntington, N.Y. – Bradenton Preparatory – Senior transfer from UCSB where he played in 2012 and 2011. Had to sit out the 2013 season. 2011 All-Big West Conference selection. Played for St. John's in 2010. Named to Big-East All-Rookie team in 2010. Member U.S. U-20 National Team.
Jelani Williams – Forward – West Orange, N.Y. – West Orange High School – Junior transfer from St. John's. Played for PDA Academy. First Team All-State in high school. Essex County Player of the Year.
Kegan Elis – Defender – San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago – Presentation College High School – Sophomore transfer from the University of Texas at Brownsville. 2013 Second Team All-Red River Conference selection (NAIA). Member of U-20 Trinidad and Tobago National Team.
Migual Alves – Midfielder – Newark, N.J. – St. Benedict's Prep – Sophomore transfer from St. John's. First team All-Prep selection in high school. Member of the U.S. U-18 Men's National Team pool.
(Monmouth is expected to announce additional recruits in the near future. They will be added as soon as they are announced.)
Prognosis for 2014 – McCourt and his staff will have a lot of experienced talent to work with but they have to overcome the lack of balance, specifically the lack of big play goal scoring ability, that limited the level of success they were able to achieve last year. McCourt coached teams have always played very solid team defense and allowed few goals. The defense oriented 2013 squad continued that tradition but it was also the least productive team goal scoring wise that the Hawks have fielded since McCourt took over the reigns of the program in 2005. It's possible that the move to the MAAC had something to do with that or it may be that the Hawks simply lacked the finishers they needed. Regardless, the bottom line is if Monmouth can pump up their productivity on the offensive side of the ball in 2014 while continuting to play tenacious defense then everything will fall into place. McCourt appears to have addressed the problem with the addition of transfers Sarle, Williams and Alves but returning players like Nigro and Avalos among others will also have to be part of the solution. The fact that the backline returns intact bodes well for continued excellence on the defensive side of the ball. It is also a plus that the Hawks now have a year of experience in the MAAC which means they will be more familiar with their conference opponents and the venues in which they play. The key to Monmouth's success in 2014 may very well hinge on McCourt's ability to effectively merge the newcomers in with his returning players. Monmouth has a winning tradition and has achieved a high national ranking in the recent past. The Hawks have won a regular season title eight out of the past nine seasons. The reality of playing in the MAAC (as was also the case in the NEC) is that you pretty much have to win the conference tournament to get into the NCAA Tournament. The chance of earning an at-large berth is slim to none. In 2012 Monmouth's season came to an unexpected end when they were eliminated in a penatly kick shootout in the semifinals of the NEC tournament. In 2013 it came to an end when they were topped by Quinnipiac in a penalty kick shootout in the championship match of the MAAC Tourney. Monmouth should enter the 2014 season hungry and motivated to get back into the national spotlight and to rejoin the NCAA Tourney field after a two year absence. Accomplishing that is not going to be easy but anything else will likely be a disappointment.