BANNER ELK, N.C. – The 2017 season was one to remember for the Lees-McRae College men's soccer program. The Bobcats enjoyed success both on and off the pitch on their way to registering their third 11-plus win season in the past four years.
LMC posted an 11-5-3 mark overall and a 7-3-0 in conference tilts. In comparison, Lees-McRae was 5-14-0 overall and 4-6 in league matchups in 2016. A major reason for the turnaround was the Bobcats' improvement defensively. In 2016, the Bobcats were outscored 59-34, which is a difference of 25 goals. This past season, however, Lees-McRae almost did the complete reverse of that outscoring their opponents, 56-27.
Statistically speaking, the Bobcats also had several standout performances last fall. LMC led the nation in assists (67) and assists per game (3.53). Lees-McRae also led Division II in points per game (9.42) and finishing second in overall points with 179. LMC also led the country averaging 2.95 goals per game, tied for fifth in total goals scored (56) and tied for second in shots on goal per game (9.16).
Individually, Nathan Watt led all of Division II averaging 0.74 assists per game and finished second in total assists with 14. Teammate Harvey McMorrow was not far behind Watt as he finished fourth in both of those categories with marks of 0.68 and 13, respectively.
A major key in all these successes were several players having standout seasons. The Bobcats had six players named to All-Conference Carolinas squads, including the league's player of the year (Tom Deely) and freshman of the year (Johannes Oeksnevad), four conference player of the week honors, three All-Region players, two academic all-district honorees and one All-American player.
Several of these accolades went to the team's seven-member senior class. Tom Deeley, Nathan Watt and James Morgan were all named All-Conference. Deeley collected the league's player of the year, Southeast Region Player of the Year, Second Team All-American and Third Team Academic All-American. Watt was a second team All-Region nominee along with being named to the third team All-Conference Carolinas team. Morgan rounded out the all-conference honorees from the senior class with a third team nod.
The senior class also carved their names into the program's records in several categories. Deeley became only the fifth player in program history to reach 100 points scored. The Oxford, England native also now ranks in the top 10 in the program's points per game (6th – 1.32), goals scored (5th – 37), goals per game (9th – 0.49), assists (3rd – 26), assists per game (t-6th – 0.34), game-winning goals (6th – 8), shots (4th – 220), shots per game (6th – 2.89).
Additionally, Watt also graduates ranking fifth in assists per game (0.37) and second in assists (28). Goalkeeper Tyler Pavlet also leaves Banner Elk ranking sixth in saves (202), fifth in wins (27) and fifth in shutouts (11).
The Bobcats will look to not only maintain this level of success but also build upon it when their 2018 season kicks off next fall.