Final Third on the MAAC Pitch: Mountain Hawks set up for repeat?

This is a column that takes a look at all of the MAAC men’s soccer teams throughout the course of the season and off-season.

As the ‘14 regular season came to a close, Quinnipiac University had to have felt pretty good about itself heading into the postseason as the No. 1 seed in the MAAC conference. Its goal, as is every other teams’, is to win the MAAC final for the championship title. It lost to Fairfield on penalty kicks, 3-1, before it could even think of a rematch with Monmouth.

Monmouth won its match against Iona College, 2-1, to advance and face-off with Fairfield in the championship. On a Dave Nigro golden goal in the 104th minute, Monmouth won 2-1. For its stay in the NCAA tournament, that didn’t last long because it lost in double overtime to No. 14 nationally ranked Xavier in the first round 2-1. Talk about irony to win or lose by the same exact score.

“You always need good chemistry to have team success, to win,” Monmouth coach Robert McCourt said. “… The chemistry helped us get through tough times last year. This year, I expect it to be the same.”

Eric Klenofsky looks on as his team is trying to score a goal on the other side of the field. Photo taken by Kevin Fuhrmann.

Once the book was finally closed on Monmouth’s ‘14 season, the accolades started to pour in. Six of its players earned individual recognition or were named to one of the all-MAAC teams: Matt Jeffery (Defensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive season); Emmanuel Senyah Agyemang, Derek Luke, Eric Klenofsky and Nigro (All-MAAC Second Team); and Dom Sarle (All-MAAC First Team.)

At the start of the ‘15 season, everything seems to be going in the right direction again for Monmouth. In the MAAC preseason poll, Monmouth was selected as the No. 1 seed.(3) It also is being presented in national polls for the 10th consecutive season. TopDrawerSoccer.com ranked it No. 21 in the nation and it received votes from CollegeSoccerNews.com.

“It gives us a little bit of a target on our back,” McCourt said. “We’ve been used to it. It adds a bit of pressure. We don’t get too caught up in that stuff, really. We feel we have a tendency of getting everybody’s best games whether you’re deserving of being picked No. 1, that’s really based on last year.”

“Since I’ve been here, it’s a way of life,” Klenofsky said. “If we don’t win the MAAC, don’t make the NCAA and somebody doesn’t go pro. It’s a failed season.”

On the player side, Luke; Klenofsky; and Nigro were selected to the preseason All-MAAC team. Klenofsky, was also named MAAC Preseason Player of the Year.

It’s not surprising either. Klenofsky was Division I Statistical champion in goals against average (0.48) for the second consecutive season, finished second nationally and in the MAAC in save percentage (.880).(4) Besides individual stats, Top Drawer Soccer named him as a top 10 goalkeeper in the nation. The website described him as “quick off his line, the New Jersey native is agile enough with a 6 feet 6 inches frame to really turn heads in the fall.”

“I was privileged to have the center backs that I did last year and my freshman year,(5)” Klenofsky said. “They’re the best center backs I’ve played with. You can read into any accolades, but I highly doubt I’d get them without those two center backs. This year we have two new guys in center defense, so this year you’ll get a good gage at how good I really am.”

“David Acuna Camacho is our captain. And I would put my neck out on the line to say he’s the best player in the MAAC right now. He’s been that for the past two years, and he has never gotten any recognition because he plays defensive midfielder and outside back. He’s absolutely the most technical and one of the best players I’ve ever played with. You can look at it as look at all these accolades I’m getting. I don’t know what they actually mean. It’s great to have all these guys around me because it makes me look better. So that’s great to have but I wouldn’t read too much into any of the preseason or selections at all at the end of the year. It’s just all someone’s opinion.”

For the MAAC last year, more than half of the conference was above .500. Iona coach Fernando Barboto thinks it’s going to be the same or better. While Klenofsky adds, “It’s going to be different.”

“Last year the conference had a really good year,” Iona coach Fernando Barboto said. “There was seven teams with a winning record. The league is going to be even stronger this year.”

“There’s a lot of huge impact players, the franchise faces, if you will, from each of the bigger teams,” Klenofsky said. “Ignacio Maganto from Iona, Borja Angoitia and Jeffery and Agyemang are gone.(6) It’s a new-look MAAC. Not to say it’s any better or worse this year, in terms of competition, but we’ll see. Looks as of right now to be good competition.”