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Xavier 2018 Team and Recruiting Class Review

School:  Xavier
Conference:  Big East
Coach:  Andy Fleming – Ninth Season
2017 Record:  11-6-3 – 5-4-0 in conference play
2017 Final Season Ending Rank:  N/A
Key Personnel Losses from the 2017 Team:  Defender Cory Brown, forward  Matt Vasquenza, midfielder Josh Grant due to graduation.  

Five Year Win Total:

2013:  10

2014:  15

2015:  12

2016:  8

2017:  11

2017 Goals Scored and Goals Allowed:  37 scored – 26 allowed 
2017 Goals Scored and Goals Allowed Per Game:  1.85 scored – 1.30 allowed 
2017 Key Statistic:  Twenty-six goals allowed 

Background:  Xavier annually fields a very competitive team.  Since 2010 the Musketeers have secured ten wins against top ten ranked teams.  During that span they have not had a losing season and have averaged eleven wins. 

Since moving from the Atlantic 10 Conference to the "new" Big East Conference in 2013, Xavier has been among the leaders in terms of top four regular season finishes and conference tournament berths. Despite coming close on three occassions, the Muskteers have yet to secure a Big East regular season or confernece tournament crown.

The Musketeers are 92-48-25 overall and have earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament four times during the eight seasons to date that Andy Fleming has been at the helm of the program.  In 2014 they advanced to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tourament.  

Xavier had eleven wins last year including signature regular season wins over Boston College, Georgetown, and Providence.  They advanced past Providence and Butler in the Big East Tournament but fell one win shy of another berth in the NCAA Tournament when they were topped by Georgetown in overtime in the championship match. 

Defender Cory Brown was named to the 2017 All-Big East Conference First Team for the third straight year.  Forward Matt Vasquenza, midfielder Simen Hestnes and defender Cameron Taylor were All-Big East Second Team selections.  Defender Samuel Buzzas and goalkeeper Zachery Nelson were named to the 2017 Big-East All-Freshman Team.  

Number Starters Returning in 2018:  Eight 


Coach Fleming stated, ''This class has two or three players who will help immediately, a few others who I think will contribute in year two then a few final pieces who will develop within our system and be great veterans for us down the road." 

Jacob Bernsen – Midfielder – O'Fallon, Missouri – Fort Zumwalt West High School – Played club for St. Louis Scott Gallagher.  Member of Arsenal Program.  

Ethan Lee – Midfielder – Carmel, Indiana – Carmel High School – Played for Indianat Fire Academy.  Region II ODP Team.  Four year member of Indiana State ODP team. 

Matthew Fickenworth – Defender – Cincinnati, Ohio – Anderson High School – Three-time First Team All-ECC selection.  First Team All-State.  Team captain.  Cincinnati Enquirer Player of the Year. Played for Cincinnati United Premier.  

Connor Haskell – Defender – Medfield, Massachusetts – Medfield High School – Played for Global Premier Soccer.  Member of the New England Revolution Academy for our years.  Ranked the number eight-nine recruit in the class of 2018 by College Soccer News.  

Jacob Benintendi – Defender – Cincinnati, Ohio – Turpin High School – Played for Kings Hammer Academy.  First Team All-ECC. 

Felix Boe-Tangen – Forward – Oslo, Norway – Norwegian College of Top Athletes – Played three years with FK Lyn First Team in Third Division.  Stabaek Premier League Academy. 

Tomek Pauer – Midfielder – Hamburg, Germany – University of Hamburg – Played for Luneburger SK Hansa. Team captain.   

Outlook for the 2018 Season:  Xavier finished strong last year. The Musketeers won three three out of their last four regular season contests and played their way into the Big East Tournament championship match.  Now there's momentum for more with eight returning starters and improved depth.  

In order to turn the corner and to return to the NCAA Tournament field for the first time since 2014,  Xavier must balance what could be a lethal attack with what needs to be a top three Big East defense. The Musketeers must be able to win games by both outscoring as well as shutting down opponents.

Cory Brown was the team quarterback from his left back spot last year.  His role must quickly be reestablished.  Xavier must also fill the rather large void – thirty career goals and the ability to make clutch plays – that exists due to the the departure of Matt Vasquenza. 

A demanding schedule, made even harder in October due to a scheduling glitch, will test the depth and mettle of the Musketeers.  On the other hand, it also provides a great opportunity for a high RPI and some statement wins down the home stretch.

The attack will feature prime time senior midfielder Simen Hestnes (7g, 7a) and one of the nations best kept secrets in redshirt junior forward Sam Sergi (9g, 4a).  Both are very explosive finishers.  

Junior forward Del Otim (0g, 1a), senior midfielder Jacob Goodall (1g, 8a) and redshirt sophomore midfielder Payton Miller (0g, 1a) are among other mainstays. Otim has been a starter the past two seasons, Goodall adds to the attack on the flank, and Miller (0g, 1a) now has the advantage of a year of starting experience.  Forward Felix Boe-Tangen is among the members of the recruiting class who should contribute immediately.  .  

The back of the team, green a year ago, now has some big games under their belts.  Collectively they will look to right what was a leaky defensive ship in 2017 that allowed a total of twenty-six goals. 

Redshirt senior back Cam Taylor (6g, 4a) joins forces with sophomore back Samuel Buzzas and sophomore goalkeeper Zach Nelson who now have the benefit of a year of playing together. They will be joined in the back by former All-Big East member Matt Nance, who returns after missing the 2017 season due to injury. and redshirt freshman Taylor Crull. 

North Carolina transfer redshirt junior Sean Wilson (0g, 1a) will link with senior Joash Sutherland and graduate student Tomek Pauer in the back of the midfield.

Over the past eight seasons, Xavier has walked a fine line. They either make the NCAA Tournament field and are in the top twenty-five with a solid RPI or they hover close by on the bubble. 

The Muskeeters will have a nice blend of youth and experience in 2018 and what appears to be a deeper and more talented rotation.  They should be an improved team in 2018 but just how that will translate in terms of wins and losses remains to be seen. The X men have been known to play down, and have an occasional hiccup, mainly on the road against lesser regarded teams.  

Andy Fleming put Xavier on the map via record setting defensive teams but in the past two seasons they have not been elite defensively.  The 2017 team was one of the Musketeers must prolific on the offensive side of the ball with a total of thirty-seven goals.  Yet not being proficient defensively proved to be the difference between being a bubble team and a “next level” group.

Don't sell Xavier short.  They will be a much more battle tested and competitive team in 2018 and will enter the season with a palpable sense of unfinished business.  Whether that results in a conference title and berth in the NCAA Tournament will hinge in large part on the big play ability of Hestnes and Sergi and on a return to playing great defense.  

Posted in 2018 Team Reviews

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