Remarkable, unpredictable, and unbelievable were all words used to describe the 2011 Fairfield Men’s soccer season, that ended with a heartbreaking 3-2 defeat at Brown in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Similarly, these words can also be used to depict the first season of freshman standouts Hrvoje Glavan and Jordan Ayris. The MAAC coaches recently noticed their efforts, as the freshman pair was honored on the MAAC All-Rookie Team.
At a banquet during the MAAC Tournament in Orlando, FL, Fairfield’s men’s soccer team received awards in three major categories. Coach Carl Rees was awarded the MAAC Coach of the Year, after leading the team from a slow 0-4 start to a MAAC championship. Goalkeeper Michael O’Keeffe received MAAC Defensive Player of the Year, running the defense from the goal with 65 saves and a .756 goals against average. Finally, Ayris was awarded with MAAC Rookie of the Year, ending the season with 10 goals and 3 assists, which led the team.
Awards were also given out for the All-MAAC first team, which featured: O’Keeffe, defender Johnny Raj, midfielder Jon Clements, and Ayris. The All-MAAC second team highlighted: defender Jack Cleverley, midfielder Daniel Shaw, and striker Jack Burridge.
Coach Rees, while pleased with the awards given to his players, admits: “an award is just someone’s opinion” and further notes that “we’ve got some very good players who didn’t win awards.”
While this is clearly true, it is important to note two of the freshman on the team, whose contributions throughout the season were vital to the team’s success. When the starting lineups were announced for the team, both Glavan and Ayris were always common staples among the starters. While they both are standout freshman, it may come as a surprise that they took very different paths to get to where they are now.
Glavan, of Mamaroneck, New York, came to Fairfield from Mamaroneck High School, where he was captain of the soccer team for two years. Winning the MAAC tournament was incredibly important for Glavan because: “before I came to this school, during my high school years, we didn’t really win anything. And coming into Fairfield, first year as a walk-on, winning the MAAC, and making the NCAA tournament, it was like a dream come true for me at least.”
It is exactly this status as a walk-on that sets Glavan apart from the rest of the freshman class. While schools such as Manhattanville and Keene State recruited him, he chose to take the risk and follow his academics to Fairfield.
“I got in contact with the coaches, “ he says, “ but it was too late for recruit, he brought me to summer camp, and during the preseason I was offered the spot.” It’s a good thing for Fairfield men’s soccer that Glavan took the risk,” according to Ayris he was especially important in the Iona game as he was “vital in the central, he didn’t really give the ball way, nothing really more you can do. “
Glavan started 15 of 18 games this season and added an important assist to Burridge in the MAAC tournament final. Glavan notes that his place on the MAAC All- Rookie Team is due greatly to “going into practices every day., like going into games.” It was this same attitude that also helped propel Glavan from walk-on to starter for the Stags in the 2011 season.
Ayris had a much different path to Fairfield. While playing in England for Brackley Town, Ardley United, England Schoolboys and his school team, he was recruited to play his soccer in the United States. Ayris had the difficult decision as to whether he wanted to continue playing in England, or come to America. In the end, he chose to play at Fairfield because: “it was a good chance to play a good standard of football over here, while still working towards getting a degree.”
Just like with Glavan, the Stags were happy with Ayris’ choice to join the team. And also like Glavan, while he himself was a recruit, he had to work hard to join the list of starters. “ I think working hard in training and games are probably the most important things”, said Glavan.
Ayris came up big for the Stags on several occasions during the season. Glavan described Jordan’s best game of the season as the away victory to Loyola. “Not only did he assist the first goal, but he also scored the second goal. And the second goal I thought was the most important. So it gave us that comfort,” praised Glavan.
It is without doubt that with a season under their belts, both freshmen will return for their sophomore season ready to improve. In their one season, both have already seen great improvements since day one. According to Ayris, “ I would say that I’m a lot fitter now than when I came in. Strength wise as well. I’m also a lot more confident now, than I was at the start of the year. “
The confidence continues to come with time, as their appearance in the NCAA tournament has already given them experience for forthcoming seasons. Next year, Glavan and Ayris both hope to win the MAAC again and “go one if not a few steps further than we did this year [in the NCAA tournament}” according to Ayris.
If there is one thing that can be learned from Glavan and Ayris, it is that a team is a team, and an outstanding player is an outstanding player, regardless of their status as a recruit or a walk-on.