Spartans Have Some Reloading To Do On the Offenisve Side Of The Ball Heading Into The 2023 Season.
|Coach – Chris Rich – 5th season|
|Conference – Southern Conference|
|2022 Record – 13-2-6 overall, 4-0-1 conference|
|2022 National Ranking – 5th United Soccer Coaches, 7th College Soccer News|
|Five Year Win Total |
2018 – 8
2019 – 9
2020 – 9
|Key Departures |
J.C. Ngando – Midfielder – Appeared in 38 contests with 37 starts during two seasons with 9 career goals and 22 career assists. 2022 United Soccer Coaches and College Soccer News First Team All-American. 2022 Southern Conference Player of the Year. 2021 Southern Conference Freshman of the Year.
Maycol Reves – Forward – Played in 43 career games with 12 career starts with eight career goals and five career assists. Had five goals and three assists during 2022 season.
Marco Afonso – Forward – 2022 All-Southern Conference Second Team selection. Had eight goals and eight assists during 2022 season.
Ismail El Harchi – Forward – 2022 All-Southern Conference First Team selection who led the Spartans in goals scored with ten while contributing three assists appearing in 20 games with 18 starts as a graduate student. A 2022 United Soccer Coaches All-South Region Third Team member.
Marco Milanese – Defender – 2022 and 2021 All-Southern Conference First Team selection. Two-year starter after transferring in from Akron. 2022 United Soccer Coaches All-South Region Second Team selection.
Niclas Wild – Goalkeeper – Three year starter. 2021 and 2022 Southern Conference Goalkeeper of the Year. 2020 (Spring 2021) All-Southern Conference Freshman Team. Had 19 career shutouts and 0.89 career goals against average over three seasons.
Izaiah Vignali – Midfielder – Played in 23 games in 2022 with 15 starts. Had 53 career appearances with 30 career starts. Had two goals and one assist in 2022.
|2023 Outlook – Good things are happening at UNCG under head coach Chris Rich who will begin his fifth season at the helm of the program in 2023. The Spartans are coming off arguably the best season in program history during which they won the 2022 Southern Conference regular season and tournament titles, were awarded the number 12 seed in the NCAA Tournament, advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time, and were ranked as the number five and seven team respectively in the United Soccer Coaches and College Soccer News season ending polls. UNCG’s run to the Elite Eight, during which they advanced by Stanford on the road, opened the program to the eyes of the entire country. |
The Spartans now face the inherent challenge of sustaining and building on the success the program has had. In order to do that new goal scorers must emerge due to the departure of UNCG’s top four goal scorers who accounted for 29 of the 47 goals scored and 28 of the 43 assists last year. They also have to address the void that exists on the defensive side of the ball due to the loss of back and team leader Marco Milanese and netminder and team captain Niclas Wild, the 2022 and 2021 Southern Conference Goalkeeper of the Year. Replacing the playmaking ability that All-American midfielder JC Ngando among others brought to the pitch and the stability that Milanese and Wild brought to the defense is not an easy task but all things considered, as reloading projects go, this one appears promising
Sophomores Steven Hernandez (5g, 1a) and Colton Sessoms (2g, 2a) are among returning forwards who will have the opportunity to play a greater role in 2023. Juniors Basile Marc (2g, 3a) and Jack Birch (2g, 0a) return to give the Spartans a very good midfield tandem. Look for Marc and Birch to set the the pace in the center of the park. Sophomore Steven Cordova (1g, 1a) who appeared in nine games with one start looks to be among other returning midfielders who will be in the mix. Transfers Nabil Homssa and Max De-Bodene are among the newcomers who will likely battle for a minutes in the midfield.
Offensive productivity has been UNCG’s calling card for the past few seasons but that is only half the story. The Spartan’s play on the defensive side of the ball has also contributed to their effectiveness. Defender Marco Milanese will be missed but the good news is that the backline should be a team strength in 2023 with senior Emmanuel Hagen, a three-year starter and 2021 and 2022 All-Southern Conference First team member who is among the top defenders in the Southern Conference, senior Ethan Conley (1g, 1a), a talented four-year starter, sophomore Sami Lachekar (0g, 1a), who now has a year of starting experience under his belt, fifth year senior Matthew Skinner (0g, 1a) who appeared in 15 games with eight starts last year and sophomore Maddox Mallery (2g, 1a) who saw action in 19 games with four starts last year slated to return.
Senior Jarrett Payne and junior Isaac Briner are among returning goalkeepers who will be in the hunt to fill the rather large shoes that exist in goal due to the departure of Niclas Wild.
Few things substantiate a program like its ability to reload. The unanswered question at UNCG heading into the 2023 season is how will they respond to the loss of a good number of key players. Much will hinge on the improvement of several players who were role players a year ago and the ability of the newcomers to contribute. Look for the Spartans to improve as the season progresses. The potential exists for this team to win a lot of games. Several things have to fall into place in order for the 2023 team to achieve the level of success that the 2022 team had, but that doesn’t mean that this team should be taken lightly.
In regard to the three transfers who joined the program in the spring, Chris Rich stated, “All three are high caliber players with significant college experience. They all fit our identity in terms of how we want to play, but also are the kind of people we want in our program. We expect them to play a huge role in our group moving forward.”
Nabil Homssa – Midfielder – Paris, France – A transfer from Oregon State where he played in one game in 2022. Played for Stade de Reims.
Maxel De-Bodene – Midfielder – Alexandria, Virginia – Penn Forster Ohlone School – A junior transfer from Connecticut Connecticut where he appeared in 32 games. Played in the USSDA for D.C. United.
Donovan Roux – Forward – Davidson, North Carolina – William Amos Hough High School – A transfer from San Diego State where he played in 34 games with three goals and five assists.
Brayden Keenan – Midfielder – Played for Charlotte FC.
Xander Martin – Midfielder – Played for Charlotte FC.
Keanan Bader – Midfielder – Played for Charlotte FC and North Carolina FC.
Kwame Nyanor – Midfielder – Played for Charlotte Soccer Academy.
Tyler Lumwai – Midfielder – Played for Charlotte Soccer Academy.
Picture from UNCG Athletics