Banner Elk, NC--The Lees-McRae College Bobcats men's soccer team earned its highest national ranking in program history as the National Soccer Coaches Association of America announced its weekly college rankings Tuesday afternoon. The Bobcats are currently ranked seventh in the nation, sporting an 8-1-1 record, and sitting atop of the Conference Carolinas standings with a 4-1 mark.
"It's certainly an honor to be ranked within the top ten of Division II soccer; a reward that the coaches, players, alumni, administration, and College can be proud of," commented Head Coach Chris Whalley.
Earlier this season Whalley, in his third year at the helm of the program, led the Bobcats to a ranking of 11th in the country, breaking the previous program best of 13th set last season. After a 5-0-1 start, the Bobcats suffered a 1-0 overtime loss to Anderson University September 15th on the road, their only blemish in 2007. After falling from 11th to 18th with the loss to the Trojans, sophomore goalkeeper Sean Paradise (North Point, FL) backstopped the Bobcats to three consecutive shutouts to help earn the team its first top ten ranking in program history.
Paradise currently leads Conference Carolinas with five shutouts in ten games, while also sporting the conference's best goals against average, surrendering just 0.64 goals per game. His .824 save percentage places him second among goalkeepers in Conference Carolinas while both his goals against average and save percentage also rank 20th in the nation in their respective categories.
"Sean has been playing great lately. He's been seeing the ball really well and making the saves we needed him to while the defense in front of him has really stepped up. Everyone on the field is contributing," stated Whalley. "We are fortunate to have two great keepers in Sean and Tom, (sophomore Tom Courtney of Newcastle, England). If it weren't for Tom pushing him so much, Sean may not be playing at the level is he is right now. The boys are confident we can win with either one in there."
The forward tandem of junior Berin Boracic (Orlando, FL) and freshman Lee Squires (Sheffield, England) lead the way for the Bobcats offensively as they sit tied for the conference lead in goals scored (9) and goals per game (0.9). Boracic has also shown his playmaking skills this season, leading the conference in assists with five. His 23 total points and points per game average (2.3) also rank number one in Conference Carolinas, while Squires has buried a conference best three game winning goals. The 23 total points by Boracic rank him 6th nationally and 14th in points per game. The pair have also claimed three of four Conference Carolinas Player of the Week awards with Boracic claiming week one and two honors and Squires earning the award in week four.
As a team, Lees-McRae sits atop of Conference Carolinas in offense with 36 goals scored while surrendering just six goals in ten games to sport the conference's top team defense (0.58 goals against average). The 3.6 goals per game also place the Bobcats attack sixth nationally while their goals against average ranks 15th in the country. The Bobcats six shutouts are also the second most in Division II so far this season.
While sitting seventh nationally, the Bobcats currently own the number one ranking in the Southeast Region, overtaking non-conference rival Lander University. Lander fell 2-0 to North Georgia over the weekend, allowing the Bobcats to one up the Bearcats for top spot. The Bobcats will face North Georgia at home next Wednesday October 3rd at Tate Field.
"While the player of the week awards and rankings are very nice, we still have not achieved the team goals that we set for ourselves at the beginning of the season. This will all mean absolutely nothing if we are not playing in mid-November," stated Whalley.
The Bobcats will hit the road for an important Conference Carolinas match up Saturday afternoon at Coker College. Kickoff is set for 5:00pm in Hartsville, SC.
PICTURED TOP LEFT: Sean Paradise
PICTURED BOTTOM LEFT: Berin Boracic
PICTURED BOTTOM RIGHT: Lee Squires