GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Enthusiasm is high as the Tusculum University men's soccer team prepares to kick off its 50th season of competition on Saturday, Sept. 7 at Emmanuel.
The Pioneers are coming off their third South Atlantic Conference Tournament championship in the last five years and record seventh overall, and welcome back eight starters from last season's club which earned Tusculum's first NCAA Tournament victory since 2008.
Head coach Allen Vital begins his ninth season at his alma mater needing to replace three of the Pioneers' top four goal scorers from a year ago, but with a veteran defense that recorded nine shutouts and limited the opposition to four shots on goal per match.
"We would like to get back to where we were last season, and take it a step further," said Vital, who owns a 71-57-18 record in eight seasons at Tusculum and a career record of 245-125-31 in 22 seasons as a collegiate coach. "We have a good mix of players with the experience and the ability, but it will be quite challenging with the strength of our region."
Junior Oscar Rubio Jimenez is the veteran of the forward group, entering his third full season in the program with 30 career appearances. The native of Soria, Spain scored two goals and had an assist for five points in 18 appearances last year, boosting his career total to six goals and two assists for 14 points.
Among the veteran returnees are junior Roy Deutekom and sophomore Sander Johansen. Deutekom (Amsterdam, The Netherlands) saw action in the postseason for the Pioneers and finished the year with one assists in nine contests. Johansen (Amot, Norway) had two goals in 10 games a year ago for the Pioneers. Additional veteran support is provided by junior AJ Bell (Christchurch, New Zealand).
Senior Luke Murphy (Glasgow, Scotland) will be an integral part of the attack after transferring from Virginia Commonwealth. Murphy played 12 games last season for the Rams, after scoring 32 goals as a sophomore at Herkimer Community College and earning first-team NJCAA Division III All-America honors in 2017. Other newcomers include sophomore Cade Miles (Greeneville, Tenn.) and freshman Harry Easterby (St. Albans, England).
Senior Fabian Proesch was named second-team All-SAC last season and is a preseason first-team All-League selection this year after leading the team with six assists in 2018. Four of his assists came in the Pioneers' five postseason matches, which helped earn the Toensberg, Norway native a spot on the SAC All-Tournament team. Proesch has started in 43 of his 52 career appearances for Tusculum and has two goals and seven assists for 11 points.
Junior Edgar Cervantes was also selected preseason All-SAC after claiming honorable mention All-SAC status each of his first two seasons. Cervantes started 16 matches for the Pioneers a year ago and was voted to the SAC All-Tournament team after playing every second of the Pioneers' postseason contests. The native of Cancun, Mexico has three goals and two assists for eight points in 35 matches for Tusculum.
Senior Henrique Devens (Aracruz, Brazil) also grabbed All-Conference preseason honors and is the Pioneers' top returning scorer from a year ago, having ranked second on the team in both goals (eight) and points (17). Devens also led the team with 54 shot attempts and had two goals in the Pioneers' 3-2 win over Queens in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, one of three two-goal games for Devens last season.
Senior Sokho De Souza (Nice, France) will be in the lineup for the Pioneers after a strong two-year career at Camden County College, where he had seven goals and eight assists in 39 matches. Another senior, Nikola Vujicic (Belgrade, Serbia) comes to Tusculum from Houston Baptist where he played in six games last season, after a two-year career at Illinois Central College that featured 26 goals in 37 games.
Sophomores Arthur Le Gall (Bannalec, France) and Paulos Beraki (Nottingham, England) return for the Pioneers after seeing playing time last season. Le Gall played seven games and made three starts, while Beraki saw action in one match for the Pioneers as a freshman. Newcomers for Tusculum include freshmen Michael McEvoy (Cary, Illinois), Zach Powell (Johnson City, Tenn.) and Renan Caruso (Caxambu, Brazil).
Senior Georgios Charkoutsakis is a two-time second-team All-Conference selection, including 2018 when he played every second of each of the Pioneers' 21 matches. The Heraklion, Greece native had three goals and an assist last season, of which two of his goals were postseason game-winners. Charkoutsakis, a first-team preseason All-SAC selection, has appeared in 52 career matches and has six goals and four assists for 16 points, including four game-winners.
Senior Pau Peiro (Miramar, Spain) has anchored the Pioneer defense during his first three years, starting 50 matches and contributing four assists on offense. Junior Clement Dagorn (Saint-Brieuc, France) is preseason All-SAC after starting 19 matches last season and 34 over the past two years. Junior Dani Gongora (Malaga, Spain) was on the field for seven matches last year, including one start.
Senior Xavier Lamour (Pembroke Pines, Florida) is a transfer from Pfeiffer, where he started 29 matches in two years and contributed one goal and one assist. Graduate student Manny Scere (Roanoke, Virginia) played in 10 matches in two seasons at Virginia during 2014 and 2015, including five starts. His brother, Nathaniel, started two seasons on defense at Tusculum during the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Sophomore Vinicius Rosario (Sao Paulo, Brazil) is another returnee to the Pioneer defense from last year.
A number of freshmen will help provide depth on defense for the Pioneers, including Tshad Selvon (Maracas-Saint Joseph, Trinidad and Tobago), Asiimwe Ironside (Knoxville, Tenn.), Tyrell Squire (Bristol, England), Phillip Hall (Dayton, Tenn.), Ira Heppard (New York, N.Y.), Xavi Sandoica (Tarragona, Spain) and Marc Caceres (Sant Cugat Del Valles, Spain).
Senior Alejandro Quiriti is a preseason second-team All-Conference selection after compiling an 11-5-1 record with a 0.90 goals against average in 18 starts last year. Quiriti led the SAC with nine shutouts, the third-most in a single-season by a Tusculum keeper, while his goals against average was also the third-best in program history. Quiriti, who hails from Mar del Plata, Argentina, opens the year ranked second in career goals against average (1.24) and fifth in shutouts with ten.
Junior Sam Gilbert (Derbyshire, England) was pressed into duty during the NCAA Tournament and picked up the win in the Pioneers' 3-2 victory over Queens in the opening round of the tournament. Gilbert had a 2-2 record with a 2.29 goals against average and had nine saves in four appearances for Tusculum last year. Freshman Yu-Liang Chu (Reedley, California) will provide backup support to Quiriti and Gilbert for the Pioneers.
Tusculum opens the season with four consecutive road matches, including the season opener on Saturday, Sept. 7 at Emmanuel and their SAC opener on Saturday, Sept. 21 at Lenoir-Rhyne. The Pioneers will play the first of their seven home contests on Wednesday, Sept. 25 against Lees-McRae, and wrap up the year at home against Carson-Newman on Wednesday, Nov. 6.