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August 21, 2012

Scoring a point of emphasis for Tech men's soccer team heading into 2012 season

By: Marc Mullen

David Clemens

When assessing his Virginia Tech team’s 2011 season and looking ahead to 2012, head men’s soccer coach Mike Brizendine came to the realization that a couple factors would determine any future success. And he started taking the necessary steps to get the team moving in that direction.

The first, which is apparent to anyone, is goal scoring. In 19 games last year, the Hokies scored just 15 goals in a season in which they finished 4-13-2.

“When I reflect back on last year, we started out losing to Howard, which was a very tough loss,” Brizendine said. “We lost to Wisconsin in overtime, beat Cincinnati, beat [No. 1] UNC, and were down at Boston College, 3-1, and came back to tie that game.

“Right there, we win that game and who knows [the Hokies lost 4-3 to the Eagles]? That’s how close our games were. We could have taken that momentum from there, and who knows what could have happened?

“There is no secret that we can defend. We need to score goals. If we have one guy who steps up and scores eight goals, or by committee, four or five guys scoring three or four goals, this will be a very exciting season for us. We can’t have three guys scoring two goals and expect to do well.”

When the spring exhibition season opened for the Hokies back in March, the soccer staff believed it needed to shake up the offense and incorporate a new system, and Brizendine was satisfied with the results.

“There were certainly some bright sides to it, and ultimately, at the end, we showed what we could do in that system by getting some results against some good teams, including American, who beat us the previous fall, and Liberty, who was an NCAA team,” he said.

Aside from scoring more goals, the Hokies need to fare well in a couple of other areas. As always, the team needs to stay healthy, and Brizendine also hopes that experience will lead to better performances on the road.

“We didn’t do well on the road, and that’s got to get better,” he said. “Now that these guys have some experience, we’re little better seasoned. We have to have some success there. So we hope maturity will help us get over that hump.

“We also have to stay healthy. There were a couple of injuries that we had last year to guys, and David Clemons is a perfect example. He ended up being a leading scorer with only two goals (in 10 games).

“I think we have a very solid defense. Our goalkeeper position is going to be our most competitive position, and we have a very strong backline, so there are a lot of positives.”

The Hokies top returning goalkeeper is junior Kyle Renfro, who posted a 1.25 goals allowed average, playing every minute of the season in net for Tech. The 25 goals he surrendered were the fewest by a Tech goalkeeper since the 2005 season.

The Forest, Va., native has been nothing but spectacular in his 26 games played so far, posting a 1.19 career GAA. To put that into perspective, the best four-year mark a Tech goalie has posted is 1.12 by Chase Harrison (2002-05). However, Renfro is far from Harrison’s win total (41-7).

“With Kyle, he’s done a lot to help his case as our starter, and he was very good in the spring,” Brizendine said. “In front of him, we should do very well. Drew Ranahan is a redshirt sophomore, so he will be a third-year guy, and Austin Stewart (a redshirt junior) played in the back in the spring for us. We think that he can fill in a role there. Then there are our seniors, Devante Dubose and David Fiorello, who played in the back and at midfield, so the backline unit should be strong.”

If the defense can repeat a performance from the 2011 season and the offense can score a few more goals, the Hokies could be a 10-win program in 2012. Consider these facts from a year ago – the Hokies went into overtime seven times and were just 1-4-2 in those contests. The previous three seasons, they were 1-2-5 in eight overtime games combined.

“Again, the reality is we’re still in that building process, and that’s one of those things where it takes some time,” Brizendine said. “Last year, even though results-wise you wouldn’t say this, you look through statistics, and we are moving closer to where we want to be. So we are pushing toward that and getting the momentum going in the right direction, and I think this spring was a springboard for that.

“Our guys are excited, and they know the direction we are heading. It has been a while since we’ve had some encouragement coming out of the spring, and so we are just going to try and build off that. It just takes time, hard work, diligence, and I think we have the right chemistry, the right make-up, and the right intestinal fortitude to get better. I’m excited about that.”