HARRISONBURG — In the months since advancing to the round of eight in the NCAA men’s soccer tournament last fall, James Madison has spent the offseason trying to build off one of the program’s most successful seasons.
A look at the most recent recruiting class suggests the Dukes have done just that.
After earning Colonial Athletic Association Coach of the Year honors in his first season in charge at JMU, Paul Zazenski signed nine new Dukes, including the top player in Virginia, to join a solid returning group led by sensational junior goalkeeper T.J. Bush.
“This group should provide us with depth and some dynamic qualities to an already veteran team,” Zazenski said in a statement after the class was announced. “We are very excited for what the future has in store for these nine players and we can't wait to start working with them come August."
While the majority of the recruits are incoming freshman from Virginia high schools, one of the more intriguing additions is Swiss midfielder Jeremy Jaquier, who has already played a season of college soccer. The Longwood transfer made the Big South’s All-Freshman team last fall and has previously played with the Switzerland youth national team as a teenager.
The Dukes have another promising midfielder joining the fray with Virginia Beach’s Clay Obara also signing with JMU after earning Gatorade Virginia Player of the Year honors following his senior season at Cox High School in which he produced 35 goals and 18 assists.
Fellow Virginians Terrence Hibbler, Dennis Mensah, Evan Paez, Nathan Paolozzi and Ethan Del Hierro, along with Prince Loney-Bailey from Massachusetts and Sloan Sullivan from Connecticut rounded out the class.
Zazenski, who received a contract extension through 2023 following the Dukes’ first NCAA quarterfinal appearance in nearly a quarter century, was back on the road in California recruiting the next JMU class this week, but in addition to recruiting, the JMU schedule for next fall has also generated some excitement for a program beginning to compete on the national level.
The Dukes will play host to three teams that finished in the Top 25 of the final United Soccer Coaches poll last season, CAA rival UNC Wilmington, Loyola Maryland and No. 1 Wake Forest. JMU will also travel to Virginia, which finished ranked No. 11, and Penn State.
"Our road schedule will be a grind, but we are looking forward to embracing the difficulties that these road opponents present,” Zazenski said. “We are looking forward to a competitive year and to challenging ourselves each and every time out."