Georgia Southern men’s soccer ready to compete for Sun Belt title in 2019

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  • The team has high hopes for the season, finishing 7-7-3 last season with a loss in the Sun Belt Championship game.

Chuck Paggett

STATESBORO –– Georgia Southern men’s soccer looks towards depth and versatility at each position in fielding a team ready to compete for a Sun Belt title in 2019.

GS wrapped up exhibition play on Saturday, Aug. 24 with a 2-2 draw against Lander University, displaying shades of the team’s depth as freshman forward Asgeir Kristjansson nodded the game with a goal at minute 80.

With exhibition matches behind, the Eagles now set their sights on the season’s opening weekend in Charleston, South Carolina where they hope to build upon last year’s success.

“I think we’re going to be deeper than we’ve been since I first got here in 2016,” head coach John Murphy said. “I think we’re going to have more flexibility in regards to how we can deploy attacking players. We’ll have more pacing wide areas and more athleticism up front, so those are important things in a game like soccer where obviously a goal can change a game.”

With a number of returning starters, the Eagles look to leadership from upperclassmen and a talented supporting cast of underclassmen to repeat a trip to the conference championship.

Seniors and team captains, defenders Justin Little and Gonzalo Talavera, lead the way along with goalkeeper Jokull Blaengsson who played every minute of every game last season.

Sophomore forward Adam Davie and junior midfielder Aldair Cortes received preseason All-Sun Belt nods after having standout years in 2018, finishing second and third in points on the team respectively.

“Your returning players are key because they’ve been there before, they’ve seen it,” Murphy said. “They’re not as intimidated when you go to a hostile venue as some of these younger guys when they come in and it’s their first college game. So yeah, we’re definitely leaning on those older guys.”

Offensively, the Eagles retain two of the top three goal scorers on the team in Davie (six goals in 2018) and Talavera (two goals in 2018), alongside Cortes, who led the conference with seven assists in 2018, while most of the defending unit is back for another run.

Recruitment is an important foundation of any college sports program and Coach Murphy has spent his first 3 years at GS bringing in talent from all over the world and in Georgia’s own backyard.

“Depth is key in any sport, and I think when you have multiple players at each position, it just makes your training sessions better and obviously prepares the group that eventually goes out there and plays,” Murphy said.

Losing in the conference tournament championship match last year comes with its lumps and bruises, but the team has steadied their resolve to get back.

“Getting over the finish line, taking that next step, is all part of the process,” Murphy said. “I think sometimes you have to lose a final to eventually win a final, and I think the lessons that our team has learned over the past three years that I’ve been here has put us in position to be in position. You’re never guaranteed anything in sports so we’ve got to go out there and earn every game.”

The Eagles open the 2019 season against UNC Wilmington in the Aaron Olitsky tournament in Charleston, South Carolina Aug. 30.

Charles Paggett, The George-Anne Sports Reporter,