The Tigers were picked fifth in this year's ODAC Preseason Poll, as voted on by league coaches. H-SC earned 72 points, narrowly edging out Virginia Wesleyan by one point and Eastern Mennonite by five. The full preseason poll can be found at the end.
The Tigers will look to get back into ODAC Championship contention this fall with a strong group of upperclassmen. H-SC has four seniors, three of which who have played in nearly every single game their previous three seasons, and an 11-man junior class littered with starters and key reserve players.
Seniors Nick DeProspero (Midlothian, VA / Cosby), Curran Blackwell (Wilson, NC / Greenfield), Chris Whiteside (Virginia Beach, VA / Frank W. Cox), and Andre Graham (Midlothian, VA / Midlothian) provide a strong foundation for this year's squad. DeProspero has been one of the best midfielders in the ODAC and Region ever since his freshman year. He has contributed 11 goals and 24 assists in his career, consistently ranking at or near the top in the ODAC in points and assists. He needs six assists this fall to be in a tie for first place with JR Hughes '99 for most career assists in a Tiger uniform. Perhaps his most important contribution is his leadership, both vocally and by example. His high level work rate day-in, day-out helps push his teammates and his self to a higher level.
Blackwell has long been one of the top defenders in the ODAC, and his contributions earned major recognition as a junior as he was tabbed First-Team All-State, First-Team All-ODAC, and Third-Team All-South Atlantic Region. He upped his game to another level as a junior as he was one of the Tigers top offensive threats in addition to his outstanding defense. He posted a career-high 13 points on six goals and one assist and was the anchor of a defense that allowed one or fewer goals in nine contests in 2011.
Whiteside returned back to his role as a starter as a junior to record two goals and three assists. Whiteside has been a proven winner ever since his scholastic days. While Whiteside is an established and clutch offensive weapon that is a ball magnet, his speed and stamina have proven to be a valuable asset to help quell any transition or counter attack opportunities.
Graham switches to the defensive side of the field this fall. Even though he stands at just 5-4, he has tremendous speed and will be one of the quickest players on the pitch. If he makes the transition from offense to defense as well as Gregorio Pacheco '12 did, Graham could be in line to have a career year.
The junior class has proven to be a particularly strong recruiting class for the Tigers and will fill many vital roles for H-SC. Jackson Parker (Raleigh, NC / Sanderson) has shown to be a very physical and highly skilled defender that excels as both a one-on-one and team defender. His on-ball skills also have made him a valuable player in creating opportunities in transition and counter attacks. Expect to see Parker in contention for All-ODAC and All-Region in 2012.
Bryan Talbert (Seaford, VA / York) has shown to be one of the Tigers best all-around players, capable of providing a high level of production in nearly all assets of the game. One of the fastest and strongest players on the team, Talbert will once again be a full-time starter. Bo Burns (Raleigh, NC / Leesville Road) is another quality midfielder in the junior crop of talent and has shown quite a penchant for creating goal scoring opportunities, having racked up four and five assists in each of his past two seasons.
Alex Thexton (Midlothian, VA / Cosby) improved tremendously in his sophomore campaign, playing in 13 contests while racking up three goals and one assist. With the departure of Bryan Wharton '12 to graduation, Thexton could be in line for an even bigger junior year. A slew of defenders in Jason Haas (Newport News, VA / Menchville), Nate Ott (Virginia Beach, VA / Norfolk Academy), Justin Pugh (Richmond, VA / Monacan), and Caleb Watkins (Midlothian, VA / Cosby) provide the Tigers with a lot of quality depth on the defensive end of the field and will battle intensely to earn consistent playing time on the backline. William Hess (Hampton, VA / Kecoughtan), Adam Nelson (Chesterfield, VA / Cosby), and Andrew Sperr (Charlotte, NC / Charlotte Catholic) have had strong preseasons and have the opportunity to make a big impact on the Tiger offense in 2012.
The sophomore class features several players that will make a name for themselves this year. James Lawrence (Midlothian, VA / Midlothian) made an instant impact in 2011, tying for the team lead in goals with six, which also was the top mark for all freshmen in the ODAC. Lawrence also proved to be an efficient scorer, boasting a shot percentage of 22.2%. Robert Stephens (Williamsburg, VA / Lafayette) showed a lot of promise as a rookie and scored two goals against Randolph College. With a strong preseason thus far, Stephens is in line for a much bigger role as a sophomore. Blake Carrey (North Chesterfield, VA / Deep Run) was a reserve goalkeeper a year ago but has established himself as the favorite for the starting goalkeeper position.
While the Tigers brought it another strong recruiting class that will likely pay big dividends in following years, the depth and talent of the returning team members will limit the impact of this talented class.
2012 ODAC MEN'S SOCCER PRESEASON POLL
(#) Denotes First Place Votes
|1. Randolph (7)||115 pts.|
|2. Roanoke (5)||114 pts.|
|3. Lynchburg||95 pts.|
|4. Washington and Lee||80 pts.|
|5. Hampden-Sydney||72 pts.|
|6. Virginia Wesleyan||71 pts.|
|7. Eastern Mennonite||67 pts.|
|8. Guilford||51 pts.|
|9. Randolph-Macon||49 pts.|
|10. Bridgewater||45 pts.|
|11. Shenandoah||17 pts.|
|12. Emory & Henry||16 pts.|