BANNER ELK, NC - Head Coach Chris Whalley returns for his fourth season at the helm of the Lees-McRae College Bobcats soccer team after guiding the team to its best season in program history in 2007. The Bobcats finished the year with a program record 21 wins, (21-2-1), and qualified for the NCAA Men's Soccer Championships for the first time in program history, winning the Southeast Regional before falling in the Elite Eight.
After winning the Conference Carolinas Regular Season and Tournament Championships in 2007, the first time in conference history a team has claimed both in the same season, the Bobcats return a great deal of experience with 17 letterwinners from last season on the roster in 2008. Twelve new Bobcats join the fold and will push the returners as the Bobcats look to return to the NCAA Men's Soccer Championships. Winning the conference double and qualifying for the NCAA Tournament were not the only program firsts in 2007, as the Bobcats reached their highest national ranking in program history reaching and maintaining the number two slot for the final five weeks of the season and finishing the year ranked seventh in the country according to the NSCAA/adidas National Coaches Poll. The Bobcats enter 2008 as the tenth ranked team in the country according to the NSCAA/adidas preseason poll.
"Myself and the players are very excited about the upcoming season as we look to improve upon last season and achieve the goals we have set for ourselves," stated Whalley. "The returning players are anxious to get started as are the players we've added to the roster. I am happy with how we're looking thus far in training camp, the depth of the squad is nice, however we're by no means satisfied and will be striving to be playing in November."
Bursting onto the scene as a freshman Lee Squires (Sheffield, England) set a Lees-McRae single season record scoring 24 goals while starting all 24 games on his way to earning NSCAA/adidas First Team All America accolades. Squires also set a single season record with nine game winning goals while being named First Team All Conference Carolinas, Conference Carolinas Tournament MVP, and NSCAA/adidas First Team All Region. With a season under his belt, Squires will be keyed on a little more from the opposition's defenders which will only free up space for the rest of Bobcats midfielders and forwards to capitalize on.
Seniors Kyle McGimsey (Plant City, FL) and Bobby Layburn (Centennial, CO) will lead a youthful midfield unit with speed and experience as the pair look to add another championship to their resume's before their collegiate careers are over. Sophomore Logan Linton (Cocoa, FL) gained a great deal of experience during last season appearing in 21 games with five starts as did classmates Alex Ramirez (Arlington, TX) and Anthony Mantegani (Hendersonville, TN). The trio will see expanded roles within the team this season and battle for time in preseason.
In the backfield, a pair of Worksop, England natives led the Bobcats as senior Johnny Bownes and junior Dale Parker anchor a stiff defense that registered 13 shutouts last season in front of First Team All Conference Carolinas and NSCAA/adidas Second Team All Region goalkeeper Sean Paradise (North Point, FL). Parker joined his classmate Paradise on the All Conference First Team and Squires on the NSCAA/adidas All Region First Team a season ago, while Bownes was named to the NCAA Southeast Regional All Tournament Team after stepping up his game in post season in play.
The #10 Bobcats will open defense of the Conference Carolinas Championship August 29th when they host Francis Marion University at Tate Field. The game, set to kick off at 7:00pm, will be the first of five straight home games for the Bobcats to open the 2008 campaign.
PICTURED ABOVE LEFT: Lees Squires in action during the 2007 season
PICTURED BELOW LEFT: Dale Parker makes contact with a header
PICTURED BELOW RIGHT: Kyle McGimsey battles for possession with an unidentified opponent