The National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) announced the 2011 NCAA Men's Soccer Division III All-Region teams today and four Oglethorpe Stormy Petrels received recognition. Senior center back Mark Lavery (Woodstock, Ga.) and senior midfielder Aaron Walker (Woodstock, Ga.) were tabbed as members of the All-South Atlantic First Team while sophomore defender Nikos Papanikolopoulos (Atlanta) and junior goalkeeper Frank Petersen (Woodstock, Ga.) received Third Team nods. The individual postseason honors come on the heels of unrivaled team success for an Oglethorpe squad that won a conference title and advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2011.
A two-year starter at center back since transferring to Oglethorpe from the University of Kentucky, Lavery spearheaded an Oglethorpe defense that allowed its fewest goals per game (1.22) since the 2005 squad. In addition to controlling the back line with aplomb, Lavery was also a key offensive weapon for the Petrels, tallying 6 goals and assisting on four others for 16 points on the season. He became the first Stormy Petrel to be named Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) Defensive Player-of-the-Year while also collecting NSCAA First Team All-America status.
Joining Lavery as an All-Atlantic South Region First Team member is his former Etowah High School teammate Aaron Walker. A four-year starter in the midfield for the Petrels, Walker displayed flair for the dramatic in 2011 as each of his three goals were game-winners for Oglethorpe. His last game-winning goal came in the Petrels 2-0 win over Southwestern to propel Oglethorpe into the SCAC Championship match. He also added 7 assists on the season for a total of 13 points.
Sophomore defender Nikos Papanikolopoulos transferred this season to Oglethorpe from Clemson University and made an immediate impact on the pitch for the Petrels. He started all 21 games as a defender for Oglethorpe and fiercely protected the Petrels net all season long to earn his All-Region Third Team honors. Additionally, Papanikolopoulos made the most of his on-target shots, converting 5 attempts into 4 goals for a season total of 8 points. He tallied the game-winner for Oglethorpe in a 3-1 win over Centre College on October 28 that clinched a first round bye in the SCAC Tournament for the Petrels.
Junior goalkeeper Frank Petersen also collected an All-South Atlantic Region Third Team nod for his dazzling play in the net for the Petrels this season. Petersen, who also played with Lavery and Walker at Etowah High School before transferring to Oglethorpe this year from the Memphis University, recorded 4 shutouts in 2011. He posted a 16-3 overall record in net and made 68 saves en route to stopping 76% of the on-target attempts at the Oglethorpe goal. He retains one year of eligibility and will return next season to man the Petrels goal.
The Oglethorpe team set a school record by winning twelve straight games during the 2011 campaign en route to posting a 17-4-0 overall record and winning the team's first SCAC Championship. The 17 wins are a program best and the .810 winning percentage is also tops all-time for a team that celebrated 50 years of soccer being played on the campus in October. The squad's success earned the school's first trip to the NCAA Tournament and gained national attention when the team appeared in the NSCAA rankings for the first time.
"I'm thrilled that four deserving players like Mark, Aaron, Nikos and Frank were recognized by the Coaches Association as All-Region performers," said Oglethorpe head men's soccer coach Jon Akin. "It's the icing on the cake after all the hard work these kids put in to push us to our first conference title and first trip to the NCAA's in program history."