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Ian McMichael has a passion for defense.
So when the first-year Barton College men’s soccer coach was invited into a conversation about his goalkeepers and defensive third Thursday morning, he had no trouble rattling off names of kids he didn’t recruit.
Senior goalkeeper Jens Madsen Hordvik. Freshman midfielder Cooper Dean, a product of Hunt High. Then, two other local products in Wilson Christian’s Tyler Dew and Danny Peru.
While McMichael won’t turn his nose up at a 6-3 victory, it’s quickly apparent his identity in this game is based around clean sheets.
“I think I’d prefer more results 1-0 than 6-3,” McMichael conceded.
Then, there’s the matter of recruiting. That’s where McMichael knows a thing or two. He arrived at Barton after two years at NCAA Div. III Hampden-Sydney College, but spent two seasons before that as the recruiting coordinator and associate head coach at Pfeiffer University. He departed for Hampden-Sydney before the 2015 season, but members of his last Pfeiffer recruiting played a key role in leading the Falcons to the NCAA Division II national title.
Thus, his two seasons at Hampden-Sydney have led him to Wilson.
“I think it’s an opportunity to build a competitive program,” McMichael said of taking the Barton job. “My family, we like the area, we’re familiar with the conference and familiar with recruiting in North Carolina. We’ve met some great people at Barton that certainly seemed to make the position more attractive.
Barton, which finished 6-11-1 last season and lost to No. 14 Pfeiffer in the quarterfinals of the Conference Carolinas tournament, opens the season Saturday on the road at Tusculum (Tennessee) College.
In goal, McMichael termed Hordvik as the “real deal,” raving about his strong presence in the box in responding to crosses and services into the area.
“He’s been all-conference second team I think twice,” McMichael said. “He has goals of being the top keeper in the league, and I think he’s capable of that.”
Dew is described as “very coachable” and “competitive.”
“Having that type of approach on the back line is huge,” McMichael said.
Sophomore Lorran Antonelli was praised for his technical skills. At outside back, newcomers to the position such as Peru and Dean will be leaned upon.
“That’s one thing I love about Barton,” McMichael said. “It draws players and students from the surrounding community, and I think it’s a special thing to have local guys not just on our roster, but be able to contribute as well.”
In the midfield, junior Tolly Beatson returns alongside junior Javier Alcarria and Brazillian sophomore Iuri Aleixo. Catching McMichael’s eye in particular has been senior Alex Blake out of Southwest Onslow.
Barton is picked to finish ninth in the 10-team conference this season.
“I don’t look at it like that,” McMichael said. “I don’t look at it as like I want to be the guy to take the program to the next level. I look at it as I’m going to come in here and do the best job I possibly can for this team and for this program, with the goal of continuing to improve and continuing to reach high successes. If we are fortunate enough to win championships and compete in the national tournament, of course we welcome that challenge and that pressure. But that’s not our day-to-day focus. Our day-to-day focus is let’s get better today, and stay present.”