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Marlboro’s Nigro among Preseason All-MAAC soccer picks

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It is players like Marlboro’s Dave Nigro who keep the Monmouth University men’s soccer team at the top every year.

A former standout at Marlboro High School, Nigro didn’t have an immediate on the program right away, although he was named to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) All-Rookie Team in 2013. By his sophomore year, he was ready to contribute as a starter and was a 2014 All-MAAC Second Team pick. The progress continued last fall, and he earned First Team recognition.

He scored five goals and dished out three assists for the Hawks in 2015 to push his career totals to 13 goals and seven assists. He has been clutch, scoring game-winning goals against Canisius College and Siena College. Nigro sent Monmouth to the 2014 NCAA Tournament with the golden goal in double overtime against Fairfield University.

Nigro was one of five Hawks who were named to the Preseason All-MAAC Team. Monmouth was chosen by the MAAC coaches as the favorite to win the regular-season title for the third time in the last four years. The Hawks received 10 of the 11 first-place votes. Rider University was picked to finish second and had the other first-place vote.

“It is wonderful for the program to receive such positive recognition from our peers,” Monmouth head coach Robert McCourt said in a prepared statement. “The MAAC is a fantastic men’s soccer league. To be picked to finish first again is an honor we do not take lightly.

“We have a talented class of incoming recruits and an experienced group of returning players. We are excited to get the season started.”

Monmouth’s senior goalkeeper, Eric Klenofsky (DePaul Catholic), was named the MAAC Preseason Player of the Year and joined Anderson Asiedu (St. Benedict’s), Nigro, Zachary Pereira (St. Benedict’s) and Colin Stripling (Scotch Plains-Fanwood) on the Preseason All-MAAC Team.

Now a two-time Preseason MAAC Player of the Year honoree, Klenofsky was recently named by EverybodySoccer.com as one of the top 24 American goalkeepers under 24 years old. Klenofsky is No. 11 on the list. He was also picked by TopDrawerSoccer.com as a top 10 goalkeeper in NCAA Division I for the second consecutive season.

Through three years, Klenofsky is a two-time NCAA Division I Statistical Champion in goals against average, a three-time All-MAAC selection, the 2015 MAAC Goalkeeper of the Year and a 2015 National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-Northeast Region First Team selection. He was also selected to the MAAC 35th Anniversary Team. Klenofsky’s 31 career victories in net are already second all-time in the MAAC — just seven behind the all-time leader.

A 2016 MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List honoree, Asiedu quickly established himself as a holding center midfielder for the 2015 MAAC regular-season champion Hawks in his freshman season. Adept at dispossessing the opponent while utilizing his speed and technical skill, Asiedu also went forward and finished the season with two goals and four assists.

Pereira earned MAAC All-Rookie Team honors after scoring twice and adding two assists from the Hawks’ back line. He also added a pair of goals in the MAAC Championships to earn All-MAAC Championship Team honors.

A 2013 MAAC All-Rookie Team selection, Stripling bounced back from a season-ending injury in 2014 to lead Monmouth with six goals and 17 points in 2015.

“It is exciting to see our players get recognized by coaches in our league,” McCourt said. “It is a testament to their hard work they have put into their college careers thus far. Their hard work and commitment to the program has brought team success as well as individual accolades. Everyone is excited to get the season started.”

McCourt, who is in his 12th year at the helm of the Monmouth program, has done a great job courting area talent, and the 2016 Hawks feature a host of Shore area players. Among them are defender Wilson Bonilla (Long Branch), midfielder Jake Areman (Colt Neck), defender Jacob Curtis (Red Bank Regional), defender Ryan Wells (Ocean Township) and goalie Chris Seager (Ocean Township).

The Hawks open the 2016 season at home Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. against the University of Denver.

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