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Optimism Abounds for Men’s Soccer

August 20, 2013

Cullan O'Keefe  
Cullan O'Keefe

With an expanded roster and an infusion of young talent, the St. Louis Community College men’s soccer team has plenty of reasons to look forward to 2013.

In Dan O’Keefe’s second season as head coach, the Archers will look to build on progress made last fall, which included a competitive showing in the Region XVI Tournament.

“Last year, our goal was to train all year and be ready for the playoffs,” O’Keefe said. “This year, we have a similar goal, but we’re a little more well-rounded. We have a lot of good, highly skilled players. Now, they just need to get sharp.”

Much of the top talent from last year has also returns. With a year of collegiate experience behind them, O’Keefe looks forward to the veteran contributions from what was a talented, yet raw, class of freshman from last year.

Leading the way with this year’s sophomore group are Yacob Brown, Jesus Rodriguez, Andrew Branca and Cullan O’Keefe, Dan’s son.

After a year of learning and adjusting to the college game, Brown looks forward to taking more of a leadership role this fall.

“It (freshman year) was a bit of an eye-opener for me,” said Brown, who will see time as a forward/midfielder in 2013. “Sometimes, you may think you’re good enough, but when you see how competitive it is and you get out here on the pitch, you’re really able to reassess yourself.”

All four displayed promise in their first year at the collegiate level, but the elder O’Keefe looks forward to seeing the fruits of a year’s labor in player development take root.

“All of our returning players are twice the player they were a year ago,” O’Keefe said. “I was impressed with them last year, but what I’ve told them is they all need to take the leadership role this year.”

The Archers also have welcomed two new goalkeepers for 2013. Freshmen Josh Hampton (Sikeston) and Austin Golden (Maplewood-Richmond Heights) will serve as the STLCC netminders this fall. Hampton was named the MSHSAA Class 2 Goaltender of the Year last year, and Golden led the state in saves.

The goalie pair will split time this year, and O’Keefe has expressed confidence when either has been between the pipes in practice.

“We finally have competition with goalies, and both of these guys are real good,” O’Keefe said. “(Hampton) and Austin are real similar. They both have some of the same traits, and we’re not going to lose anything with who we have in there.”

The Archers will open their season at home Thursday (Aug. 22) against Lewis and Clark Community College. The match begins at 4 p.m. at the Florissant Valley campus, site for all home games.

The Archers’ early-season schedule will also see some formidable opponents, as they travel to South Carolina and Georgia to face Spartanburg College and Georgia Perimeter College Aug. 31 and Sept. 2, respectively.

While O’Keefe acknowledges the challenge of such a difficult early-season slate of games, he expects to have the team to match up favorably.

“The competition is way stronger than it was years ago,” O’Keefe said. “In the past, there were teams you would play that you knew you’d beat 5-0 and 6-0, but now the competition is better everywhere. But for us, all of our talent has gotten better, and our returning players are going to benefit us the most.”