Campbell opens season at home against N.C. State

Aug. 30, 2013 @ 04:58 AM

Campbell opens its 2013 men’s soccer season Friday at home with a 7 p.m. kickoff against ACC foe North Carolina State.

The Camels are coming off finishing third place in the Big South Conference last season, going 12-5-2 overall and 7-3 in conference. The Wolfpack went 10-10 overall and 1-7 in the ACC last year.

The N.C. State vs. Campbell series has a long history on the pitch. The Wolfpack owns a 23-8-2 record in the series. The Camels have won the last two matches. In 2011, Ben Iiames scored in the 91st minute at Buies Creek to lift the Camels to a 1-0 triumph. Last year at Raleigh, Ricki Gaez and Bryce Miller found the nets for CU and Ethan Hall stopped a penalty kick in a 2-0 victory.

The Camels enter the season ranked second in the Big South’s preseason coaches poll. Defending champion Coastal Carolina, which is also ranked No. 14 nationally by the NSCAA, is ranked first in the Big South.

A veteran defense – led by Hall, an all-conference keeper, and three-year starting center back Aleksi Tossavainen – anchors the Camels, while four of the team’s top five scorers return in the attack.

Hall, a senior from Raleigh’s Athens Drive High School, earned second-team All-Big South recognition last season after posting the best save percentage in the league (.788), while recording a 1.14 goals-against average and seven shutouts. Tossavainen, who hails from Tampere, Finland, has started 58 straight games as a Camel. Also back are senior defenders Eduardo Rodriguez (Cary/Green Hope), Travis Golden (Austin, Texas) and senior midfielder Justin Franz (Cedar Park, Texas). The group helped lead Campbell to a 2-2-1 record against nationally-ranked teams in 2012 and a 2-1 mark against Atlantic Coast Conference members.

The junior class boasts Campbell’s top returning scoring threats in Gaez (Panama City, Panama), who netted eight goals and three assists last year.  Jhuvon Francis (Kingston, Jamaica) added five goals and two assists, while Bryce Miller (Roanoke, Va.) had four strikes and set up four others. Junior Scooter Oliver (Cary/Panther Creek) returns to his defensive midfield role, while Isaiah Page (Brampton, Ontario) figures to build on an all-freshman team campaign in an attacking midfield position.

Friday is National College Colors Day and Fighting Camel fans are urged to wear orange and black all day. Friday’s game promotions include free Campbell men’s soccer posters and schedule cards, a Back to School party for the Camel Kid’s Club and post-game autograph session.

Friday’s game is the first of 11 CU contests that will be aired live and free on the internet via the Big South Network. Visit BigSouthSports.com or GoCamels.com to link to live coverage, including next Tuesday’s contest in Buies Creek against VMI.