College Soccer Update: Monmouth’s monster keeper; Virginia’s wonder dribble (video)

Monmouth University
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Eric Klenofsky is keeping himself out of the local headlines, but that won’t stop the national plaudits.

The giant junior goalkeeper from Monmouth, the one with appendages like octopi and the reaction time of a jack rabbit, is the owner of the top goals against average in the nation two years running.

He also happens to be the sports editor at the college paper, The Outlook, which could cause some problems if he wasn’t a strict disciple of journalist protocol.

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“I try to keep myself out of the sports section as much as possible,” Klenofsky said. “It’s a tricky situation, but a situation that I’m blessed to be in.”

That work ethic and moral fabric might keep his name out of the pages, but there’s little debating his skills, fundamentals, and accolades. The junior paced the country in goals against average in 2013 (.22) and 2014 (.48), finishing second in save percentage both seasons, and has realistic MLS aspirations.

So how does a guy double-down on that? By facing a stiffer challenge.

“This season I really just want to prove all the naysayers wrong,” Klenofsky said. “You can look at the stats and say, ‘He’s a really good keeper’ or ‘He had really good center backs,’ which I did. But I want people to know it wasn’t just them. I want there to be no question about those stats. Ever.”

The Hawks graduated a pair of stud center backs last season. Eric Jeffery is now in MLS with Colorado after back-to-back stints as MAAC Defensive Player of the Year, while Hawks coach Robert McCourt says Emmanuel Senyah Agyemang has MLS-level talent but, unfortunately, Ghanaian citizenship which makes teams think twice before using a foreign slot.

On top of the graduations, there have been injuries.

“We’re down two very experienced, good level defenders,” McCourt said. “We’ve been trying to mix and match until we’ve gotten the blend correctly.”

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So Klenofsky’s .87 goals against average and .803 save percentage are still quite impressive, and perhaps show just how good the kid can be.

“Eric’s a really savvy guy for his age. I think he’s an MLS guy,” McCourt said. “We’ve had seven guys drafted in the last seven years, including (San Jose goalkeeper) Bryan Meredith, and he feels the same if (Klenofsky) continues to push his development.”

After a tough 0-3 start to the season, Monmouth has settled into its shape in front of Klenofsky. Winners of five of six — the sixth a 0-0 tie — the Hawks have allowed just two goals in their unbeaten streak.

Next: a very difficult challenge in talented conference mates Iona.

Three stars

  1. Seattle. Wow. The 7-2 Redhawks knocked off a pair of Top 15 teams in three days time, upending Washington 2-1 and then heading to Oregon State to topple the Beavers 2-1. It’s been bombs away for Seattle, with three players ripping off 20 or more shots this year, including leading scorer Hamza Haddadi.
  2. South Carolina entered the week just a game over .500 and ended it ranked in the Top 20. How? They ended Elon’s undefeated season with a 3-1 win before knocking off New Mexico 2-1. That’ll do it. Gamecocks forward and D-2 transfer Danny Deakin now has six goals to lead the team.
  3. Virginia’s Derrick Etienne got a heck of a lot of respect from VCU’s midfield on a free dribble up the middle, but there’s no debating what he did the rest of the was class, and the first goal of the freshman’s career (See 2:11 into video)

Other notes

  • Creighton lost three of the 24 total first-place votes in the NSCAA poll, with North Carolina (2) and Wake Forest (1) stepping in for some. Apparently blanking Northern Illinois and scoring three goals in 11 minutes to comeback on Seton Hall isn’t enough to impress continuity amongst all voters.
  • The UNC Tar Heels did improve to 7-0-1 on the season by beating rival Duke 2-1 at Chapel Hill. Wake Forest beat Akron and tied Clemson.
  • Also No. 1? Charleston (Men’s D2), Kenyon (Men’s D3), UNC (Women’s D1), Central Missouri (Women’s D2), Messiah (Women’s D3)