In their fourth year, the Otters have continued to show steady improvement on and off the field. This season was no different as the Otters broke several records as a team and many more individually. This collective effort allowed the Otters to finish with 19 points, a .500 record, and a 4th place division finish, all the highest in Otters history.
The Otters were able to tie their most-ever wins in a single season, and also pick up critical points away from home, winning their second ever road game 3-1 at Lionsbridge FC in front of a crowd of over 3,200 people. They also secured only the second result to open a season, when they held on for a 1-1 win at Wake FC, playing down a man for over 70 minutes. At home, the Otters went undefeated for the first time ever with a 4-0-3 record, including their first ever win in the month of May with their 3-2 comeback win over Lionsbridge FC.
In terms of statistics, the Otters were able to impose their offense on almost any opponent, shattering the previous record for shots over the course of a season by almost 30, recording 191 this season. Twice during the season, the Otters bested their own mark for shots in a game, when they recorded 24 in June and then 25 in July against Tobacco Road FC. The Otters also scored four goals in each of those games, tied for the second most in a single game. They were also able to tie their total number of assists for a season with twenty.
Individually, the Otters season was anchored by a number of big-time performers in each position group. After playing with the Otters in 2017, Carlos Rubio (Lenoir-Rhyne) returned to lead the Otters in goal. Rubio set best marks in career saves (82), as well as the most in a single season (51). He also recorded the second most saves in a single game in back-to-back games with nine against the NC Fusion U-23s and Lionsbridge FC. Rubio was also recognized by USL League Two, on two separate occasions when he won Save of the Week. Rubio’s career save percentage of .739 is the best in Otters history and his goals against average of 1.72 ranks second all-time. His four wins were also second most in a season, and his five career wins are tied for most all-time with Tyler Pavlet.
Also in his second season in goal for the Otters, Tim Trilk (Western Illinois) set some bests of his own. He earned his first ever win and shutout for the Otters when he helped blank the NCFC U-23s 2-0 on June 4th. Trilk also ranks third all-time in goals allowed with 16 over his appearances. Trilk also is tied for fifth all-time in saves with 20 stops in his career with the Otters.
It was another successful year for the Otters captain, as Blake Barribeau (Palm Beach Atlantic) returned to Johnson City to play in the blue and green. Barribeau finishes tied for the third most appearances at 24, and second all-time in minutes with 1,980, just short of the 2,000-minute mark. Barribeau started off the year by scoring his first goal for the Otters in the season opener, to secure the draw against Wake FC. His goal this year and three assists from last season leave him with the second most career points by an Otters defender. Those three assists also place him fourth all-time in assists.
Due to injuries along the back line, a lot was asked of the two centerbacks in terms of minutes and playing time and Merveil Bilomba (ETSU) handled the task admirably. Bilomba is one of only one five players in Otters history to appear in all 14 games in a season. Bilomba played as both the left and right centerback in the three-back system, and also made two appearances as a left back later in the season. He finished with 1,140 minutes, which was the second most in a season. Bilomba was also able to contribute offensively, sparking the comeback against Virginia Beach United at home and winning Goal of the Week for the league for his 25-yard strike.
Next to Bilomba, was returning defender George Stanley (Montreat) who played every minute after returning from his red-card suspension in the opening game. His 1,106 minutes were fourth-most in a single season. Over his career, Stanley has appeared in 24 games for the Otters (fourth-most) and played 1,928 minutes, which is the third most. Stanley was named to the USL League Two Team of the Week for Week 7 for his defensive prowess as the central centerback, making key 1-v-1 stops as the last defender. Stanley also captained the Otters down the final stretch of the season.
In the midfield, the Otters used returner Oscar Perez (Wingate) to help provide support to both the back line and the attack. Serving as the Otters other captain, Perez moved up the career minutes and game ranks, finishing with 25 games and 1,732 minutes, good for second and fourth all-time, respectively.
Perez’ teammate at Wingate and this summer with the Otters, Stuart Hendry (Wingate) served as the Otters catalyst in the midfield, sparking the offense and springing the attack. Hendry finished the season with four goals and two assists, the second-best season ever for a midfielder in terms of total points. Hendry’s four goals and ten total points finished tied for third on the team. His assists (2) and shots (21) finished sixth for a single season.
The Otters midfield also received a boost from Matheus Tonon (Palm Beach Atlantic), Cole McLagan (Furman), and Jack Burrows (Palm Beach Atlantic) who all contributed big minutes and allowed the Otters to be dominant in the midfield for large stretches of the season. Their work rate and skill on both sides of the ball were vital to the Otters attacking success this season and provided another goal and two assists.
Out on the wing, Alex Horveno (Lynn) played the role of creator primarily from the right side. Horveno tallied six assists over the season, the most ever in a single season and career for an Otter. Despite not scoring a goal, Horveno amassed 23 shots, which was tied for the second most in a season with Guillermo Segovia.
Shuffling between the starting lineup and coming off the bench, Troy Brady (Canisius) was another Otter to appear in all 14 games this season. Over 787 minutes, Brady scored one goal and added two assists. His goal came at a critical moment, pulling the Otters level with Virginia Beach after trailing 2-0 at halftime. Brady finished tied for third on the team in assists. His three goals and 21 shots over his Otters career have him sixth overall in both categories.
Up top, the Otters were led by three very productive forwards. The first was Freddy Tracey (Charleston) who played just over 700 minutes and recorded four goals and two assists. Tracey scored an important brace in the last week of the season in the Otters’ thrilling 4-4 comeback against Tobacco Road FC. Tracey’s four goals were good for fifth best in a season, and his assists sit just outside the top five.
A midseason addition, Pol Vassart (Lees-McRae) only appeared in eight games but was able to make his presence felt in that short amount of time. Vassart finished with two goals and three assists, tying him with Barribeau for fourth-most assists in a season. In a 4-1 win against Tobacco Road, Vassart recorded two goals and an assist, the second most points in a single game by an Otter. His effort landed him on the USL League Two Team of the Week. Vassart also tied the Otters single game record for shots with five.
The Otters also relied on the power and strength of Marvin Made (Cumberlands) to bring a different element to the Otters attack. It worked, as the 6’8” Dutchman finished the season with six goals, including a perfect 4/4 on penalty kicks. Made also had a habit of scoring timely goals, including the go-ahead goal against Virginia Beach, the game-winning PK at Lionsbridge, and the first of three goals in the final fifteen minutes in the comeback against Tobacco Road FC. His six goals are tied for third-most in a single season.
The Otters biggest offensive performer came from returnee Taylor Gray (Reinhardt). After tallying a goal and an assist last season with the Otters, Gray came back and scored seven goals with an assist, to finish with the second most goals and points in a single season. He also sits second all-time in career points (18) and goals (8) behind Guillermo Segovia (24/10). Gray also now sits atop the all-time appearance (26) and minutes (2,079) leaderboard, becoming the first Otter to cross the 2,000-minute mark in a career. Gray scored a goal in each of the Otters first five home games, the longest ever scoring streak in Otters history. In that stretch he scored two game-winning goals, one against Lionsbridge FC and the other against Wake FC. Gray also recorded 32 shots, the most in a single season, and now has 51 for his career, another Otters record. He also had five shots in the season finale to tie the single-game record for shots in a game.
We will honor some of these top performances in the coming days when fans will be able to vote in a variety of categories to name their MVP, Save of the Year, Moment of the Year and much more in our 2019 end of season awards! Make sure that you follow us on social media so that you don’t miss any of the voting or any updates throughout the offseason! #FearTheFur