Railsplitters set to open season

LMU Athletics

MONTEVALLO, Ala. — The Lincoln Memorial men’s soccer program kicks off the 2015 season this weekend with two nonconference matches in Montevallo, Alabama.

The Railsplitters take on West Alabama at 8:30 p.m. on Friday before renewing an old rivalry against Montevallo at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday. Both matches will be played at Montevallo’s Varsity Field.

The Railsplitters are entering the 13th season under the direction of head coach Helio D’Anna, who has compiled a 136-65-21 career record in Harrogate. Including his eight seasons with the Union men’s soccer program, D’Anna has posted a 235-125-30 record as a head coach with a .641 winning percentage.

D’Anna is 30th among active Division II coaches in career winning percentage and 18th in total victories.

The Railsplitters are 9-3 in season openers in D’Anna’s tenure, but two of those three season-opening losses have come since 2011. They pounded Alabama-Huntsville, 3-0, in Columbus, Georgia in 2014, but suffered a 3-2 overtime loss against Eckerd in 2013. In 2011, the Railsplitters were drubbed 6-1 at Young Harris in the season opener.

Finding a consistent offensive attack will be the top priority for the Railsplitters in 2015 after their goal scoring slipped away last season, when they tallied just one goal in their last four matches and ranked 135th in the nation with 1.31 goals per match.

There will be options abound to stabilize the Railsplitters’ offensive output with the return of Leonardo da Silva (Itajuba, Brazil), Pedro Villa (New Braunfels, Texas), George Burne (Carlisle, England) and Nathaniel Johnson (London, England), a group that combined for 14 of the team’s 21 goals last season. Yinka Lawal (Bromley, England) is also back after leading the team in shots (44) and shots on goal (17) last season.

Defensively, the Railsplitters will have a number of underclassmen and new faces playing key roles, but that group is led by the assured presence of senior preseason All-SAC selection Johnson.

Young Harris transfer Pedro Ozi (Sao Paulo, Brazil) takes over in net for All-SAC goalkeeper Marcel Barwanietz. Ozi compiled a 1.00 goals against average and a .770 save percentage while helping the Mountain Lions achieve the no. 1 national ranking in 2013.

Live stats will be available for Friday evening’s match against West Alabama via www.LMURailsplitters.com. Updates for both of this weekend’s matches can be found on the official LMU Athletics Twitter page (@LMURailsplitter). Fans can participate in the conversation using the hashtag #LMUMSOC.

Know the Opponents

West Alabama – Friday, Sept. 4 (8:30 p.m.) – Live Stats

In just its third year of existence, West Alabama compiled an 11-6-1 record in 2014 and captured the Gulf South Conference tournament championship with a convincing 3-1 win over Shorter.

Expectations remain high for the Tigers in 2015, as they were tabbed at No. 11 in the HeroSports.com preseason Division II rankings and selected third in the GSC preseason poll, but there are a number of questions for a program that graduated six high-impact seniors.

The Tigers were elite offensively last season, ranking 13th in the nation in scoring with 2.44 goals per match and 15th in points per with 6.5 each match. But Thibault Charmey, Vitor Gazza and Evan Beutler, a group that combined for 24 goals and 18 assists in 2014, are no longer with the program.

Senior midfielder Brian Meadows – a preseason All-GSC selection – is the Tigers’ best returning offensive threat, as he accounted for four goals and four assists in 18 appearances as a junior. Alex Brown, also a preseason All-GSC pick, is also back after tallying three goals in 17 showings a season ago.

Freshmen midfielders Hicham Menaa and Jean Baptiste Meyniel were noted as two of the GSC’s top newcomers in the preseason men’s soccer release.

The Tigers limited opponents to 1.24 goals per match last season. Sophomore goalkeeper Brad Louis made nine appearances and four starts as a freshman, which included two stellar performances in the GSC tournament. He completed the year with a 1.09 goals against average and 27 saves.

It will be the first ever meeting between Lincoln Memorial and West Alabama.

Montevallo – Sunday, Sept. 6 (4:30 p.m.)

The Falcons went 6-7-4 last season and finished sixth in the Peach Belt Conference standings. They especially struggled down the stretch as they were outscored 8-1 over the last five matches of the season.

Defense wasn’t the problem, as the Falcons ranked 47th in the nation with a 1.05 goals against average. Sophomore goalkeeper Yannic Horn was an absolute monster in net, allowing jut 19 goals with 88 saves while ranking 15th in the nation with a ridiculous 82.2 save percentage.

Offense was an issue, though, as the Falcons ranked 168th out of 193 NCAA Division II teams by scoring an even goal per game. Despite relinquishing just 19 total goals, Montevallo was only able to score 17 times.

The Falcons return two of their top three goal scorers in Srdjan Dujkovic and preseason All-PBC selection Jeffrey Hessenberger. Dujkovic posted three goals and three assists as a freshman while Hessenberger notched three goals and a team-leading six assists last season. Josh Keller is also back after scoring twice in 17 appearances.

Montevallo’s roster features 20 underclassmen and just six upperclassmen.

They were tabbed seventh in the Peach Belt Conference’s preseason coaches’ poll.

Lincoln Memorial and Montevallo are quite familiar with one another, as the two programs shared Gulf South Conference affiliation from 1995 until 2005. The two also met in the NCAA National Semifinals in 2007, when the Railsplitters advanced to the National Championship match in a 1-0 double overtime thriller.

Montevallo owns a 12-6-2 advantage in the all-time series, but LMU has won four of the last five meetings. The Railsplitters captured a 2-1 win in the most recent head-to-head match in 2013.

LMU Athletics

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