Falcons Open Regular-Season This Weekend in California

    Senior defender Caleb Downey is the WAC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year
    Senior defender Caleb Downey is the WAC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year

    Aug 28, 2013

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    Falcons Open 2013 Campaign on West Coast
     The Air Force men's soccer team plays its first games of the 2013 season this weekend in California. The Falcons play at St. Mary's College on Friday, August 30 at 4 p.m. (PT), followed by a match against the University of San Francisco on Sunday, Sept. 1 beginning at 2 p.m. (PT). 

    Falcons Picked Second in WAC Preseason Rankings
     The Falcons were picked to finish second in the WAC Preseason Coaches' Poll. Bakersfield was predicted to win the conference by the eight league coaches. Air Force senior Caleb Downey was selected as the preseason Defensive Player of the Year and fellow senior Brian Klazura joined Downey on the preseason all-WAC team.

    Air Force Downs 11th-Ranked New Mexico in Exhibition Game
     Freshman Blake Elder and junior Alex Frazier each scored a second-half goal to lead the Falcons to a 2-0 victory over 11th-ranked New Mexico at the Academy on August 22. The game started at the Cadet Soccer Stadium but was halted six minutes in due to lightning and moved indoors to the Holaday Athletic Center.
     Elder scored his goal after collecting a pass from Matt Payne and blasting a shot from 25 yards out into the net. Frazier then added an insurance goal off an assist by Zachary Modly. Sophomore Joey Speshock and freshman Jake Schenk each played a half in goal for the Falcons. 

    Air Force Head Coach Doug Hill
     Doug Hill is in his seventh season as head coach at Air Force. Last year, Hill led the Falcons to a 10-9-4 record and their first-ever conference tournament championship. Air Force finished second in the MPSF's Mountain Division, then won three straight games at the conference tournament, including a 5-3 shootout win over New Mexico in the title game. The team's first appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 15 years helped Hill earn MPSF Coach of the Year honors in 2012. 
      In his six seasons at the helm, Hill has coached 25 Falcons to all-conference honors, including five last season. After losing 10 seniors off last year's squad, Hill has just three starters and three of the top 11 scorers returning from last year's squad.
     Hill, who holds a United States Soccer Federation "A" license, graduated from the Academy
    in 1983 and was a four-year varsity letterman on the men's soccer team. He was chosen as team
    captain both his junior and senior seasons. In all four years, Hill helped the Falcons win the Rocky
    Mountain Intercollegiate Soccer League title. After graduation, he remained at AFA as the assistant
    soccer coach and a physical education instructor for one year before leaving the Academy in 1984 for Dyess AFB, Texas, where he was an instructor navigator in the C-130 aircraft. He returned to the Academy in 1992 and was an assistant coach for 12 of the next 15 years.

    Back to the WAC
     After spending the last 14 years playing in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, the Falcons will begin play, once again, in the Western Athletic Conference in 2013. Air Force was a member of the WAC from 1996-98 before breaking off with seven other schools to form the Mountain West Conference. The MWC did not offer men's soccer, however, so the Falcons moved to the MPSF.

    2013 Season Preview
    New Players, New League, Same Expectations. Those are the facts facing Air Force men's soccer coach Doug Hill for the 2013 season. Coming off the team's first-ever conference tournament championship and first trip to the NCAA Tournament in 15 years, the Falcons will try to produce a similar season despite the loss of 10 seniors, including eight starters. The Falcons had a very productive spring season and Hill is looking for players to carry that load this fall.

    "It is always difficult to replace 10 seniors and eight starters' game experience in one year, but many players will have the opportunity to step up to the challenge," said Hill. "Of course we are rebuilding a bit this year, but we look to surprise a lot of teams this season. The silver lining is that we are hosting the conference championships this year and look forward to playing that in our home stadium."

    Leading the way in 2013 are senior captains Caleb Downey and Brian Klazura. Downey, a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation honorable mention last season, scored three goals, including two game-winners against nationally-ranked New Mexico. He scored the game's only goal less than four minutes into overtime as Air Force upset the fifth-ranked Lobos in Albuquerque, then notched the game-winner in a 2-1 victory over eighth-ranked UNM just one week later at Cadet Soccer Stadium.

    Klazura, meanwhile, had three goals and one assist for seven points last season. He scored a golden goal 12 minutes into overtime to lead AFA past CSU Bakersfield 2-1 in the MPSF semifinals, setting up the championship game against New Mexico at the Lobos' home field, which the Falcons then captured the title by defeating UNM in penalty kicks. Klazura also notched the game-winner in a 1-0 victory over Villanova to clinch the Penn Soccer Classic title for Air Force.

    Fellow seniors Michael Thrasher and Mitch Kim return as well after appearing in 11 and 10 games, respectively, last season.

    Junior Scott McGillivray tied Klazura for the scoring lead among underclassmen last season with seven points on two goals and three assists. He fired 22 shots, with seven on goal, in 2012. Fellow juniors Matt Payne (one goal), Alex Frazier (one assist) and Luke Welch (four games, zero points) are expected to challenge for starting spots this season, as is Zachary Modly, who did not play last season after notching six points as a freshman in 2011.

    Four returning sophomores appeared in varsity games last season. Jacob Laporte (nine games), Joey Haug (four), Ben Kern (three) and Connor Dunbaker (two) will look for expended playing time in 2013. The team's leading freshman scorer last season, Abinadi Samayoa (two goals), is taking the 2013-14 academic year off for a mission and expected to return for the 2014 campaign.

    The incoming class consists of 13 players that make up another strong recruiting class. The class includes eight Development Academy players with two coming from the USAFA Prep School. Members of the Class of 2017 come from 10 different states.

    "Our new recruits will be looked at to step in right away and make contributions," said Hill. "My staff did an outstanding job bringing in a strong quality class this year that will add strength and needed depth to our team. It was tough for any freshmen to break in the starting lineup last year with a heavy weighted senior class, but this year there are some opportunities for these players to compete with only four seniors."

    The class is highlighted by the two prep schoolers, Blake Elder (Fort Worth, TX) and Ryan Ward (Frisco, TX), as well as direct entries Jake Schenk (Flemington, NJ), Kenton McGuire (Vancouver, WA), Cameron Duley (Roswell, GA), A.J. Esparza (Chandler, AZ) and Tucker Axhoj (Waxhaw, PA).

    The Falcons, who re-join the Western Athletic Conference this season after spending the last 14 years in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, will open the regular season on Friday, August 30 at St. Mary's College in Moraga, Calif. After playing at the University of San Francisco on Sunday, Sept. 1, Air Force hosts service-academy rival Army in the first home game of the season on Saturday, Sept. 7 at Cadet Soccer Stadium.

    "Our non-conference schedule is one of the toughest we have had with high RPI teams like St. Mary's, USF, Oregon State, Portland, Bradley, Cal Poly and San Diego State," said Hill, who enters his seventh season as head coach. "It should prepare us well for our conference play. Our players need to gain experience quickly so we are putting them right into the fire starting with two tough exhibition games with Denver University (Aug. 18 in Vail, Colo.) and New Mexico (Aug. 22 at the Academy)."

    The eight-team Western Athletic Conference will split into two four-team divisions for the 2013 campaign. Air Force is with Grand Canyon, Houston Baptist and UMKC and will play each of those schools in a home-and-home series. The Falcons will play the four schools in the other division, San Jose State, UNLV, Seattle University and CSU Bakersfield, just one time for a total of 10 conference games.

    The WAC Tournament will begin on Thurs., Nov. 14, with the semifinals scheduled for Friday, Nov. 15 and the title game set for Sunday, Nov. 17. The entire tournament will be played at the Academy.


     

     

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