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Something to Prove

Bulldogs respond to learning curve with all-conference honors Steven Cary The Union-Recorder The Union-Recorder Wed Nov 09, 2011, 07:02 PM EST MILLEDGEVILLE — After a long 2010 season where the Georgia Military College soccer teams saw the women earn four wins and the men only two, the Bulldogs came back in 2011 with something to prove, as both teams finished with a seven-win season. Kerem Daser, head coach, has made great strides in guiding the Bulldogs since his premiere season at the helm of the GMC squads, earning his first Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association Region Coach of the Year honor this season, and coaching sophomore Rene Njiking, as well as, freshmen Sean Kelly and Josimar Grissett, to GCAA All-Region honors on the men’s side. “For me, it’s been pretty amazing the last two years; because, the first year our women won four games and our men just won two,” Daser said. “So the next year, for both teams to win seven games is really, really exciting.” The past two years have been a learning curve for Daser, as he came down from the NCAA Division I level to coach Milledgeville-based junior college. “At Georgia State, I had a full-time assistant and part-time assistants that ran around and did everything, so some days I would just go out there for the games. I think here, I kind of went backwards, but I was more involved with everything,” Daser said. “I was more involved with academic honoring, pre-game, after-game, practice, individual meetings, so I think I was more in there. It was tough at the beginning, but I think I have a better feel for my players here. Daser believes the experience at GMC has been a positive one, and admits, “I know my players better here than I did at Georgia State, and I think the kids here really appreciate that.” As a newbie at the junior college ranks, Daser has had to adjust to different recruiting styles, but has enjoyed helping Georgia’s youth soccer players take their game to the next level. “With the recruiting game, I mean, nobody does it better than Georgia Perimeter and Darton, and we were able to beat Georgia Perimeter. It shows that we are slowly catching them,” Daser said. “I think I’ve been a coach, that when others look at me, they know that I know Georgia talent, and that I’ve been able to win championships with Georgia talent. Georgia’s one of the hotbed states of youth soccer; I think there is a lot of great talent here.” Along with recruiting, Daser has faced other challenges with the young Bulldog teams in 2011, one of those being confidence. “When we played Georgia Perimeter I tried before the match to let them know that Georgia Perimeter, even though they’ve won national championships, they’re still another soccer team. The dimensions of the field are the same, the goals are the same, and they’re human,” he said. “Before that game I got a sense that they think that some of these schools are a higher level. The biggest things for me to teach this year were one: teaching kids how to be the best team players, whether you start or don’t start, but then trying to convince these kids that they could actually play with these teams.” The Bulldogs certainly stepped up their game, garnering two-second team GCAA All-Region honors in Njiking and Grissett and one first-team honor in Kelly. “I wasn’t surprised with three players making the list,” Daser said. “I think, when I look at Rene [Njiking], he was here last year when we only won two games, so if there was anybody that enjoyed the season it’s got to be Rene. I was excited to see Rene make second team all-conference—he definitely could play at a high level Division I school.” As one of the only players that came back from the 2010 season, Njiking is proud to help make history for the GMC soccer program in his last season as a Bulldog. “This year was a really great year for me as a captain, and as a sophomore at GMC,” Njiking said. “To bring history to GMC, to all of the coaches and all the fans who were there last year, I’m really grateful and happy.” GMC soccer also got a glimpse of the future this fall from Grissett, the freshman team captain. “Josimar is a great player for us. It was exciting for me to see him get second team all-conference,” Daser said. “He scored some huge goals, and I’ll never forget the Georgia Perimeter goals — the two goals he scored that beat them 4-1 — they were amazing goals there. He had many game-winning conference goals, so I was excited for him.” According to Grissett, the award was actually a surprise, but now his goals are on performing better at the national level. “I didn’t expect this much, and I’m really happy,” Grissett said. “It’s definitely helping make my next goal to make nationals.” Daser believes that Grissett is only getting started, and admits, “I’m looking for big things from him, and he is another one I think can play at the next level.” Another freshman sensation garnered the team’s only first-team GCAA All-Region honor for 2011, as Kelly scored an impressive 18 goals for the Bulldogs in his first season. “I think the most amazing thing was seeing Sean Kelly make first team all-conference. He’s one of the leading scorers in the country and our conference,” Daser said. “He’s young, he has a lot of potential, and I think he could have scored 30 goals. I think if he has a great spring and summer, I wouldn’t be surprised if he really blows up next year and goes on to play at a top five Division I school.” While content with his first season at GMC, Kelly longs for more next season as he hopes to improve on the marks he set this fall. “I’m glad of where I’m at right now,” Kelly said. “More goals and [fewer] losses, that’s it. I just want to win games.” The All-Region honors are positive attributes for an up-and-coming GMC program, but according to Daser, the best has yet to come. “I think when I look at the future, I look at Josimar and Sean Kelly — they’re going to be big time players,” he said. “I think for the future, our goal is to have a winning record, but I think for next year we want to do the same thing and finish top two if it’s possible. My goal would be to win a national championship one day.” Moving on to loftier goals in GMC’s future, Daser knows that support from the school and community are essential in making the Bulldogs’ soccer program tick. “I just want to give a special thank you to some people here — definitely [athletic director] Bert Williams for giving me the opportunity to come here. I think he has really opened up doors for me and really supported me,” Daser said. “I think that [GMC President Maj.] Gen. [Peter] Boylan, he is an amazing man. I think you have to be amazing to be a three-star general, and I think he has a vision here.” Karem Daser, head coach (second from left) with GMC all-conference honorees Rene Njiking, Sean Kelly and Josimar Grissett, and GMC President Maj. Gen. Peter Boylan.