Soccer team drops season opener

Armand Broady, Sports Writer

FMU Head Men’s Soccer Coach Kevin Varnado may have a clearer idea of what to expect from his young club after a loss to the Eckerd College Tritons 3-1 on Thursday, Sept. 1, in the opening game of the 2011 campaign.

With a host of freshmen and sophomores, the Patriots brought a very young team into the new season.

Varnado said that he thinks that there may be some growing pains for his club at the outset of the season, but he remains calm and confident.

“There may be a few jitters, but hopefully the guys will keep mistakes to a minimum,” Varnado said. “I’m just trying to calm my guys down and let them know that we will have a few errors. The important thing is that we keep them down as much as possible.”

FMU returns 10 lettermen, including five starters, from last year’s team. Coming into the opener vs. Eckerd, the Patriots were led by sophomore forward Alex Blandin, who had a team best of five goals for the squad that went 7-10-1 last season.

Meanwhile, the Tritons returned 15 players from last year’s 7-8-0 team. The leading scorer for the team from the Tampa, Fla. area is defenseman Matt Duffy. Goalkeeper and Finland native Toni Virtanen returns after a season that saw him achieve 27 saves.

Eckerd took a quick 1-0 advantage in the fifth minute of the match when senior forward Thomas Serta scored on a header from seven yards out with an assist from senior defenseman Jimmy Lawler.

Junior forward Matt Knight scored the remaining two goals for the Tritons, with the first coming at the 52:08 mark after a long service from Matt Duffy. The second goal was scored off of a header from seven yards away with an assist from senior midfielder Anthony Arico.

After the game, FMU Assistant Men’s Soccer Coach Tony Falvino recognized the veteran talent of the Eckerd ball club but still acknowledged the youth of his own team.

“There are a lot of good seniors on Eckerd’s side,” Falvino said. “They know how to play the game well, but obviously there are a lot of things on which we as a team need to work and we will continue to do those things in practice.”

Varnado shared some of Falvino’s feelings, mentioning that the Tritons had players who change the dynamic of a game.

The lone goal for the Patriots was scored by Alex Blandin in the 85th minute after receiving a through-ball from sophomore Jeran Nanthakumar. FMU had another opportunity at a goal at the 57:29 mark of the match, but freshman Igor Souza’s penalty kick went sailing high over the crossbar.

As a team, the Tritons outshot the Patriots 9-6.

FMU junior goalkeeper Will Barnette, making his first start ever at the position, recorded two saves, while Toni Virtanen made the only stop for Eckerd on Nanthakumar’s shot attempt.

The Patriots hope to earn victories with match-ups coming up against teams such as Coker College, Flagler College and Clayton State University before beginning Peach Belt Conference play in early October.