UNC Asheville’s standout performer of the season Jarrett Payne won a place on the Big South All Freshman team.
Payne impressed many in his first season as a goalkeeper at UNCA. Payne ended the season as the conference leader in total saves and save percentage. Payne had a save percentage of .774 and made 82 saves in 12 games. The Asheville native said he enjoyed being recognized for his outstanding season.
“I feel really honored. Going into the season it was a goal of mine. With the disappointing end I had, missing the last five games, it was really nice for that to happen. I was pleased with myself but I also had a great group of guys around me that did everything they could do to help me excel,” said Payne.
Payne missed UNCA’s last five games due to an injury. Despite missing those five games, Payne achieved fifth in the nation in saves, again with 82 in total.
Head coach Mathes Mennell, who played as a goalkeeper for the United States Air Force Academy, said Payne’s performances this past season warranted his place on the all freshman conference team.
“I think it’s well deserved. I think Jarrett has been fantastic this year, he’s very good and he’s only gonna get better,” said Mennell.
Senior defender Kyle Adams also spoke on Payne’s tremendous season.
“Coming in as a freshman goalkeeper and performing the way he did, his stats speak for themselves. We were all thrilled for him and me especially because he was standing right behind me. I was extremely proud of him, I know the coaching staff was too,” said Adams.
Mennell spoke very highly of his freshman goalkeeper, even saying he expects Payne to be one of the best to play here at UNCA.
“I don’t think we’ve even come close to how good he can be. There’s still some things he needs to work on, which is awesome and he’s really eager to do that. They’ve had some excellent goalkeepers that have played here. Dan Jackson was very good, he was before my time, Chris Katt and Zak Davis turned in really good performances. I think that Jarrett Payne has a chance to not only rewrite the record books, but I think he has a chance to pass that age old subjective test of the greatest of all time to play here at UNC Asheville,” said Mennell.
Adams, who captained the team in his last season at UNCA, said having Payne in goal was a tremendous confidence boost for the team.
“Having him back there, it was almost like a safety net for us knowing that he was going to make saves when he needed to and balls were only going to go into the net if he couldn’t get to them. If there was a save that he had the potential to make, he was going to make it. I think if you talk to anybody on the back four, they’d be extremely happy to have them there,” said Adams.
Payne performed notably on frequent occasion this past season. One outstanding performance, according to Mennell, included Payne’s game against Georgia State.
“I thought he was fantastic against Georgia State. That’s the game I think he had 17 saves or whatever it was, whatever ridiculous number,” said Mennell.
Adams also said Payne’s performance against Georgia State proved to be one of his best games of the season.
“His 17 saves were great for us. They kept us in a 2-2 game where we felt we kind of stepped off the gas a little bit, he gave us a chance to be successful and really that’s all you can ask for from him,” said the California native.
In his first two away matches in conference play, Payne recorded shutouts in both matches and totaled twelve saves. According to Payne, these games were the most noteworthy from his excellent season.
“The two shutout wins in conference felt really good. With conference comes a lot of pressure so it was really good to get the wins and shutouts against Upstate and Winthrop,” said Payne
A native of Candler, North Carolina, Payne said he enjoys being able to play for a school so close to home.
“It’s great. I get to see my parents, my family, every home game and so it’s always awesome to go see them after the game. Even more than that, going out to eat with them sometimes. Showing the group of guys around my neck of the woods is a lot of fun,” said Payne.
Payne captained Enka high school for two years before coming to UNCA, which he did in the spring semester. Payne graduated a semester early to join the team in the spring, which Payne said helped him get to know the team.
“It was a tremendous help. There’s such a big transition from high school to college, I’m glad I could get spring training in and meet the guys early and be coached under coach Mennell early,” said Payne.
Mennell also said Payne’s decision to graduate early and join the team in the spring helped a great deal.
“Normally when a kid comes as a freshman to play college soccer, everything happens at once. School gets harder, soccer gets harder, you move away from home, there’s girls, there’s parties, all the things, right? By him coming in a semester early, a lot of that newness and that drinking from a firehose was kind of taken away and he did a great job with it,” said Mennell.
Mennell said Payne perfectly represents UNCA.
“He is everything that is awesome about UNC Asheville. Fantastic student, his grades are literally perfect, he’s got a perfect GPA. A great teammate, humble kid, great sense of humor, super professional. He’s the kind of kid that you love to coach because of who they are off the field and then when you marry that with the performance on the field, that’s a coach’s dream.”