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Aug 6, 2012 5:06 PM by Q2 Sports

MSUB men turn to youth early

Billings - Montana State Billings men's soccer program looks to continue on the path of building a program that has a culture of winning. Head coach Dan McNally enters his eighth season as head coach and anticipates leading the 2012 Yellowjackets to success similar to previous teams.

2011 was a season of peaks and valleys for the ‘Jackets that allowed the unit to physically and mentally mature. Due to injuries that affected the original starting lineup plans, McNally needed to play younger Yellowjacket members sooner that initially anticipated. MSUB finished with an overall record of 8-8-2, a Great Northwest Athletic Conference record of 3-5-2 and 4-3-2 record at Yellowjacket Field.

With any dynamic depth chart changes, there will be growing pains. Unfortunately, this period came at a time where MSUB faced stiff competition. The ‘Jackets only managed to notch two victories out of their first nine contests. However as the team progressed throughout the season, they found their stride and reeled off six victories and two ties out of their remaining nine matches. Ending the season on a two game winning streak, the production recorded in the second half of the season builds a great cornerstone for great 2012 campaign.

"The first nine games were really difficult but I am proud with the way we rallied together and played very well over our final nine games," stated McNally. "Our only-set back in that stretch was a 1-0 loss on the road to Simon Fraser who was the No. 1 team in the nation at that point. I think it says a lot about a team that can face adversity and respond the way we did. Our best performance was a 3 - 1 win at Western Washington. At that point everything was coming together for us and it's just a shame that the season had to end when it did."

The best result of the underclassmen playing early is that they now have a year of collegiate experience added to their resume, and this group will play a major role in the team's success in 2012. In all, the Yellowjackets return 13 members from last year's roster and add 10 members with this year's recruiting class providing well rounded depth.

"The experience of last season will be of great value to our returning players," said McNally. "As a group we don't want to find ourselves in the same position as last year. The returning players know the level we need to play at in order to be successful in our region. Due to our injury situation last season our freshmen had to step up and play almost immediately, this will be great for their development and confidence. We also have a very close group of eight seniors on the 2012 team that are determined to have a great final collegiate season."

McNally recognizes that his team is focused and poised for a great year that will result in post season play. Success will not come easy for MSUB as the team plays its first 10 out of 12 matches on the road. The highly anticipated rematch between the ‘Jackets and Hawaii-Pacific will take place on the Sea Warriors' home turf on Sept. 1. If MSUB continues their dynamic play that capped of 2011, they have a chance to set themselves up for something special with six straight home games to end the regular season.

With the addition of junior college transfers Legofi Crawford, Landon Horst and Chad Ward, the Yellowjackets will have 11 upperclassmen leading the program this year. Seniors Thomas Chameraud, Cory Champney, Joshua Marocchi, Chris Hawkins, Conner Moe, Thomas Sheets, Blair Stevenson and Clifton Sheets look to end their collegiate careers on a high and leave a positive legacy.

Sheets preformed great in 2011 and was a team and conference standout. He finished first on the team in points with 19 and goals with eight. Sheets also finished tied for fourth in the conference in points and goals scored and earned second team All-GNAC honors.

Third year player Moe will lead the defensive unit in 2012. Last season he started all 18 matches for the ‘Jackets and was a first team all-conference selection. McNally will also lean on the experience and play of sophomore goal keeper Eoin Hurley to anchor MSUB's defense. Hurley had a great freshman season for the ‘Jackets, recording 15 starts and 1392:34 minutes played. He ranked fifth in the GNAC in goals against per game average (1.68) and sixth in the conference in save percentage (.653).

Over this past summer Chameraud, Kyle Emerick, Moe and Stevenson competed in the Premier Developmental League which is the top amateur summer league throughout the country. Only a select few get chosen each year for this league and this experience gained by these key players can have an immediate impact on the team's success this fall.

McNally continues to excel in recruiting local, national and international talent. Locally, Zach Besel, Logan Deeney and Alex Erikson join the program after competing in their respective Billings area based high schools the past four years. National recruits and junior college transfers Crawford, Horst and Ward all come to the Yellowjackets with two years of collegiate experience. This experience will be beneficial in decreasing their learning curve resulting in increased playing time and stronger depth for MSUB.

Internationally, the ‘Jackets welcome Sam Butterworth from England, Cameron Lee from South Africa, Andreas Soldal from Sweden and Christian Wilhelmsen from Norway. MSUB and the Billings community traditionally excel at helping international students and student-athletes adjust to a different environment and culture. McNally anticipates these individuals will also make the transition and go on to represent the men's soccer program and MSUB proudly.

"I think we have a strong roster this season and have the potential to have an exciting and great 2012 campaign," stated McNally. "We were able to add a dynamic recruiting class with the potential to have immediate success at this level. The expectations for this group will be to work hard in the pre-season, build team chemistry and be ready to hit the ground running when we open the season in Hawaii. All of our games will be a challenge so we have to take one game at a time and progress and grow as the season develops. I'm eager to start coaching this year's group and I'm sure they are looking forward to the challenges ahead."

Second year assistant coach Alex Balog will also be instrumental in the overall success of the team. Balog's effectiveness will increase greatly this year now that he and the players have had a full year of familiarity with one another. He has expertise in goal keeping from his playing and coaching experiences prior to joining MSUB.

This past summer Balog increased his overall coaching expertise with his assignment as the assistant coach for the Colorado Rapids Women team of the United Soccer League's National W-League. In the team's inaugural season he helped the W-League team finish fourth in the division with a 5-5-4 overall record and the Super 20s team won the league championship.

They Yellowjackets come into this season confident and ready to make a statement throughout the conference. Having battled adversity throughout the previous season, this year's group is prepared to overcome any obstacles that await them in 2012.

MSUB men's soccer program had its best season under coach McNally where the team finished with a 13-4-1 record in 2007. This year's team has the talent and experience to match and surpass this plateau.

To view live stats, home games and various road contests Yellowjackets' fans can go to the links provided on the men's team schedule page.

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