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O’Keefe, Robert Morris men’s soccer ‘building off lessons learned to keep moving forward’ in 2022

Robert Morris men’s soccer program has been making progress in the past couple of years.

They’re hoping to continue to build momentum in their third season under the direction of Head Coach Jason O’Keefe and in their third season in the Horizon Conference.

While the Colonials had a rough start to the 2021 season, they came on strong at the end, winning four of their final seven regualr season matches (going 4-2-1), and lost to Third seeded Milwaukee, 1-0, in the Horizon League tournament quarterfinal round.  The Colonials finished 5-11-1 overall in 2021, and 4-5-1 in Horizon League play.

Heading into the 2022 campaign, O’Keefe has continued to build more depth to the roster, with a squad that includes 31 student-athletes, 12 of which are in their first year in Moon Township.

“There were a lot of changes and a very competitive schedule last year, which we’ll have again this Fall.  We had a lot of lessons learned, trying to keep the group moving forward,” O’Keefe said in an interview with Pittsburgh Sports Live this week.

“It’s a great group of young men. We’re just enjoying everything and trying to get better every day. There’s a lot of excitement heading into this season.”

Two key players who started each of RMU’s 16 matches in 2021 return this season, including sophomore forward Bryan Akongo and junior defender Kelvin Ramirez.

Akongo led the Colonials in scoring last season with 15 points thanks to five goals and five assists, while Ramirez was named to the 2022 #HLMSOC All-Academic Team.

RMU will also receive a boost on defense, as in addition to the return of Ramirez, sophomore Noé Bijou was named to the 2021 #HLMSOC All-Freshman Team.

Three newcomers joined the program for the spring semester in January, with another nine more coming into the program over the course of the spring and summer. Included are three transfers, including two from UNC Greensboro (the Gilley twins) and one from Dayton (Hutter).

“They really got after it in the Spring, and in the preseason thus far, “O’Keefe said of the incoming group that will join a large group of returning players, also pointing out that his lineup selections ahead of the season opener at WVU start to really take shape during the Spring season.

Excerpt from Jason O’Keefe’s Interview on Pittsburgh Sports Live

“The group progress and execution in the Spring, has given us a really good foundation to start off this season with. Plus, you’re adding in nine new players into that mix, I feel like we’re going to be very deep. And have a lot of different options, which is great. It’s what you want.”

The Colonials are excited about the opportunity to put their hard work to the test against a top-level opponent to start the season, in West Virginia.

“They’re a top 10 team. They’re coming off an elite eight (apprearance in the NCAA Tournament last season),” O’Keefe said. “What an experience. What a great opportunity for us to learn and grow, and get these experiences early on.”

From RMU Athletics

O’Keefe offers up his assessment on each of the latest round of Colonials to join the program for the 2022 campaign

Connor Aley – Forward – Leonardtown, Md.

“Connor is a player who impressed us at one of our ID camps and kept showing his quality in games for his club. He’s very powerful, strong and dynamic, which will translate to the college game well. He can play a number of different forward positions, which will add strength and depth to our attacking group. We are excited for him to be joining our family.”

Logan Bellina – Goalkeeper – Huntersville, N.C.
“Logan is a goalkeeper who comes to us via Charlotte Independence. He is a talented player and someone who will fit straight into our culture. He’ll make our goalkeeping core even stronger and we are excited to see him reach his full potential as a Colonial.”

Darren Gray – Forward – Hawthorn Woods, Ill.
“Darren is a left-sided guy who is effective on both sides of the ball. He comes to us after winning two conference championships in consecutive years at Dubuque, and we are excited to be bringing his winning mentality to RMU.”

Anass Hadran – Midfielder – Beni Mella, Morocco
“We’re excited to be bringing in a player of Anass’ caliber. He is an adaptable midfielder who can play several roles comfortably. He is exceptional at dictating play and very proficient at helping the team win the ball back.”

Nolan Hutter – Midfielder – Pittsburgh, Pa. (Montour HS) 
“Nolan is a local guy that has been a part of a winning environment the last four years at the University of Dayton. He will be coming to us as a grad student, which will add some maturity and experience to our young group. Nolan will add quality and depth across our back line and we are excited for him to be joining our family.”

Victor Koah – Midfielder/Defender – Thornton Heath, England
“We were fortunate to watch Victor play for Kinetic Academy this past winter and he stood out to us straight away. He has all the technical, physical and tactical attributes to make him a strong college soccer player. He is versatile, which allows him to play several different positions in our system, and we’re excited for him to be a part of our family.”

Alex Lorigny – Midfielder – Niort, France
“Alex is a player who comes to us after playing at the highest youth level in France. He has all the tools to be a top college soccer player and we are excited to be working with him. He is a great addition to our strong midfield group and we can’t wait to welcome him to RMU.”

Shane McMillan – Forward – Penfield, N.Y.
“Shane is a centre forward who we are very excited about. He’s a very strong and powerful attacking threat that knows how to score goals, and he’ll be a problem for any opposing defender. We’re excited for Shane to be joining the RMU family.”

Jonah Valmonte – Goalkeeper – Poolesville, Md. 
“Jonah is a goalkeeper coming to us from Maryland United. He will be a great addition to the squad and the goalkeeping group. He has great technical ability as well as athleticism, and we’re excited to see what he can do as a member of the Colonials.”

Another RMU roster, another true melting pot. The 31 student-athletes to make up the 2022 roster for the Colonials hail from nine different states as well as seven different countries. Included among the United States represented on the 2022 roster is Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Ohio. There are also Colonials that call Canada, England, France, Ghana, Germany and Morocco home.

O’Keefe enters his second full season with the Colonials after being named head coach at RMU Nov. 23, 2020.

He helped guide the Colonials to their first Horizon League Tournament berth last season as RMU finished 4-5-1 (.450) against league opposition.

The 2022 regular season begins with Thursday’s tilt at West Virginia (7 p.m.)

John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

Riverhounds MF Danny Griffin

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