Written by Chris Pendleton
BUENA VISTA, Va.—The 2012 Southern Virginia University men's soccer team is determined to qualify for the eight-team USCAA National Tournament in Asheville, N.C. this November.
Men's soccer barely missed a bid to last year's championship after going 9-6-2 and finishing as the ninth ranked team in the USCAA Coaches' Poll—one spot shy of qualifying for postseason play.
"We felt like we belonged at last year's tournament, but we came up just short," Caputo said. "This year we don't want to leave anything on the table."
The Knights have not qualified for postseason play since 2004, despite earning bids to seven straight championship events from 1998-04.
Men's soccer began at Southern Virginia in 1997 and after a 1-11 inaugural season, the university named Caputo as its new head men's soccer coach. The program improved drastically under Caputo's guidance, qualifying for postseason competition the very next season.
In back-to-back seasons from 2000-01, Caputo helped the program capture its only two national championships to date, before leaving his coaching duties to lead Southern Virginia's financial aid office and focus on his duties as the university's Dean of Admissions.
Men's soccer made it to three more national tournaments after Caputo's departure (2002-04), but hasn't returned since. Last season, Caputo began his second stint as head men's soccer coach and guided Southern Virginia to its highest single-season win total (9) since 2003.
"We made some huge strides and improvements last season, but we would have liked to win another game or two," Caputo explained. "This is the season when we hope to get over the hump."
And with nine returners from last year's team—Garrett Coffman (Wabash, Ind.), Maxwell Doxey (Buena Vista, Va.), Brayan Giraldo (Greenacres, Fla.), Adam Freeman (Marion, Va.), Ryan Foster (Custer, S.D.), Robert Key (Flower Mound, Texas), Branden Seeberger (Forest, Va.), Nathan Seeberger (Forest, Va.) and Kyle Tyree (Williamsburg, Va.)—the Knights are confident they have what it takes to reach their goal.
The Knights are also welcoming back sophomore Kyle Lund (Eureka, Calif.), who played at Southern Virginia in 2009 before completing a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Brazil. Lund is one of nine returned missionaries on Southern Virginia's roster this season.
"We have a lot of experienced returners and we'll look to them for leadership," Caputo said.
According to Caputo, much of the team's leadership will come from his three senior captains—Freeman, Foster and B. Seeberger.
Caputo sees Freeman, a dynamic forward who tied for most goals (9) on last year's squad despite missing four games, and Seeberger, an experienced and crafty defender, as the leaders of his offense and defense respectively. Meanwhile, he hopes Foster can orchestrate from the midfield position to help the team function as one cohesive unit.
Southern Virginia's additional two seniors—midfielder Coffman and keeper Key—will also bring experience and maturity to the table for the Knights this season.
Foster and Coffman will be joined in the midfield by B. Seeberger's younger brother, Nathan Seeberger (Forest, Va.), who Caputo sees as one of his most skilled all-around players.
"Nathan [Seeberger] is a great player and can do a lot of different things on the field," Caputo said.
Along with a solid core of returners, the Knights also have an exciting recruiting class, including three freshmen and high school teammates Jared Gooch (Sandy, Utah), Zac McCulloch (Draper, Utah) and Cameron Walch (Sandy, Utah), who all played together at Alta High School winning a 5A Boy's Soccer State Championship in 2011.
"The championship experience of those three players will inject new energy into our team and help take us to the next level," Caputo said.
Caputo also made mention of incoming freshman Dakota Jake, whom he believes will add versatility to his defense due to Jake's ability to play any defensive position. Caputo also loves the toughness of freshman Grant Montoya (Fairfax, Va.), who, despite being the smallest player on Southern Virginia's roster this season, plays with tremendous heart and skill.
"We have a great mix of experience, youth and glue guys and we are optimistic about the season," explained Caputo. "Our schedule is very tough, especially at the beginning and end so we have our work cut out for us, but I believe we're up for the challenge."
Men's soccer opens its season Saturday, Sept. 1 against Pennsylvania College of Technology on The Fields at 3 p.m. Penn-Tech has won five of the last six Penn State Conference Championships in men's soccer.