Menís Soccer Moving Into Next Generation With McClements At Helm 8/14/02

Two things are guaranteed for the Vanderbilt men's soccer team as it enters the 2002 season. The squad will enter the campaign with a different look and a different attitude.

After 29 years of leading the Commodores, Randy Johnson stepped down from his head coaching position to pursue other interests. Things will not look the same when starring over at the bench, as he has been the only coach throughout the existence of the men's soccer program.

Taking over the head coaching reigns is former Southern Methodist University assistant and Eastern Illinois head coach, Tim McClements. One thing that will make McClements transition easier is that the Commodores return 21 players (19 field players and two goalkeepers) from their 2001 squad. Of the 19 field players returning, not one played in less than five games last season.

"I am looking forward to beginning a new era of Vanderbilt soccer," McClements says. "I feel very fortunate to inherit a very experienced team with a tremendous amount of potential. My goal is to build a nationally recognized program and I believe we have a solid foundation to build upon."

Another bonus is that five of Vanderbilt's top six scorers return. Leading the way are seniors Nik DeMello and Charlie White. DeMello and White combined for nine goals and 23 points. They were able to achieve this success while only playing in 15 games apiece, both starting 10.

With 21 players returning and five incoming freshmen joining the team, the Commodores look to get back on the winning track after two-consecutive losing seasons. McClements will need to establish more continuity in the Commodores' lineup if he wants to get the squad to the next level. Of the players returning this season, only seniors Nick Barker, Chris Yingling and John Nelson started and played in all 17 games in 2001.

One area the men's soccer team will look to improve in is its offense. In 2001, the Commodores recorded only 24 goals in 17 games. What will make this position one of the strongest is the fact that five of the top six scorers return from last season. Leading the way are Nik DeMello and Charlie White. DeMello led the Commodores with five goals and three assists for a total of 13 points. White chipped in with four goals and two assists for 10 points. Both players had successful campaigns while dealing with injuries the majority of the season.

Following a solid freshman campaign where he totaled 14 points, junior Jimmy Stone struggled through his sophomore season because of a reoccurring concussion that kept him out the majority of the season. Stone saw action in only 13 games, but only cracked the starting lineup in three contests.

Senior Danny Sable, junior Brian Lamping, sophomore Mason DeMello and freshman Brent Richard will give coach McClements a great deal of depth at the forward position. Sable, Lamping and DeMello combined to play in 25 games last season. Richard's will be a solid addition to the Commodores' lineup. Last year while playing high school soccer in Texas, he tallied 22 goals and dished out 11 assists. For his success, he was voted district MVP and first-team all state.

Even though the Commodores will be young in the midfield, it could be one of their strongest positions for the upcoming season. Of the six players that will try and hold down the middle of the field, there is not one senior. Senior Chris Perez, juniors Jeff Baker, Jack Hartley, sophomores Brendan Matthews and Steve Chromik combined to play in 44 games last season, but more importantly started 39 of those.

With Vanderbilt looking for a boost in its offense, these five players along with freshmen Kyle Lapkewych and Brady Hyde will be looked upon to give the Commodores some added offense. Baker, Hartley, Matthews and Chromik combined for seven goals and five assists for a total of 19 points. Perez returns to the squad after sitting out his junior season.

Lapkewych and Hyde both come to Vanderbilt following successful high school careers in Michigan and Missouri, respectively. While playing for Sterling Heights High School in Michigan, Lapkewych set the school record for career (100) and single-season (28) goals. Following a successful 2002 campaign, Lapkewych earned all-conference, metro and state honors and was named a finalist for the Michigan 2002 'Mr. Soccer' Award. Hyde knows one or two things about winning, as he was a member of the 2001 co-National Championship team while attending Chaminade College Prep in St. Louis.

One area the Commodores look to improve in is their defense; however, the opportunities for success looks pretty good as nine members of the 2002 roster are defenders. In 2001, Vanderbilt's defense surrendered 36 goals, and it allowed three or more goals in six games.

Leading this year's defense are seniors John Nelson, Chris Yingling, Nick Barker and Josh White. These four were the only players to start and play in every game they played in last season. Nelson, Yingling and Barker started all 17 games in 2001, while White missed only one game.

Junior Shaun Lieser, sophomores Ryan Paugh, Brady Savell and Josh Ratner did not see significant time during the 2001 season, combining to play in only 29 games. However, the four are expected to see a significant increase in playing time, which give the Commodores' defense an added boost. Freshman Marc Aleksinas, who attended The Taft School in Watertown, Conn. but is from Greenville, S.C., was an all-state player in Connecticut and New England Prep All-Star.

Another area with a great deal of experience is the goalkeeper position. Seniors Matt Gotterer and Brad Winter give Vanderbilt a solid one-two punch in net, and freshman Scott Cunningham will have the opportunity to learn under two experienced goalkeepers.

Gotterer, who was the only Vanderbilt's player to earn All-Missouri Valley Conference accolades in 2001 with his honorable mention selection, looks to pick up where he left off from a statistical standpoint. In 12 appearances last year, he had a solid goals against average of 1.54, but in conference action he had an incredible average of 0.95. Gotterer also registered one shutout (Bradley 11/4) and 58 saves. Winter played in eight games last season, which he started seven. While his goals against average was above two, he still provides the Commodores with a proven goalie who step in and contribute at any time. Cunningham, who comes to Vanderbilt via Durham, N.C., was twice named all-state, region and district. During his senior season alone, he registered an amazing 13 shutouts for Durham Academy.

If this year's team wants to get back on the winning track, it will have to endure a difficult schedule. While playing in one of the most difficult conferences in the country - Missouri Valley Conference - the Commodores will take on several formidable non-conference foes.

This year's non-conference schedule is highlighted by the Vanderbilt Tournament, in which the Commodores will take on two teams from opposite ends of the country. Vanderbilt will take on Southern Conference's Appalachian State in its first game, which then will be followed by a match-up with the Western Athletic Conference's Loyola Marymount. The Commodores will hit the road following their tournament to take on Ivy League powers Yale and Brown, who finished first in the conference in 2001, in the Yale Tournament in New Haven, Conn. Other non-conference games include Alabama A&M, Belmont, Lipscomb and Memphis.

Following a 3-6 mark and a seventh-place finish last season in the MVC, Vanderbilt will look to catapult its way back up to the top of the conference. Of their nine conference regular-season games, five will be held the Commodores new 2,400-seat stadium. Bradley, Eastern Illinois, Southwest Missouri State, Evansville and Western Kentucky will be Vanderbilt's home opponents. The Commodores will hit a difficult stretch towards the later part of the schedule, when they play four-consecutive conference road games. Heading this list is coach McClements former school, Southern Methodist. SMU started the 2001 season off 21-0 before falling to St. John's in the NCAA Tournament. MVC powers Creighton, Tulsa and Drake round out Vanderbilt's away games.

"I am excited to kick off the 2002 season in one of the finest facilities in the country," McClements says. "We face several difficult non-conference opponents in the first half of the season. This will be a strong test for our team and will help us prepare for our Missouri Valley Conference matches. It is important that we continually seek to raise our level of play as we prepare for the postseason MVC and NCAA Tournaments."


Vanderbilt Athletic Department
2601 Jess Neely Drive
Nashville, TN 37212
615-322-GOLD (4653)