Fall 2022 Promising Panthers: Nine Athletes To Watch

The FIU Men’s soccer team celebrating their C-USA title with Panthers fans in 2021 (Photo by Margi Rentis/Flickr)

As the sweltering heat of the South Florida sun beams down on FIU athletics practice fields, Panther athletes are turning up the intensity to prepare for the fall 2022 season. 

Heading into a busy season, these nine student athletes are our picks for the players to watch this season.  


Ushering in a new era under first-year head coach Mike Macintyre the Panthers will try to distance themselves from two disastrous seasons that earned them just one victory in two years. Despite their woes FIU has a talented roster featuring some notable players. 

Senior wider receiver Tyreese Chambers rewrote the record books last season by hauling in eight touchdowns and nearly 1000 yards receiving, putting himself above four-time NFL Pro bowler and Panther legend T.Y. Hilton.  

Chambers celebrating a catch last season. (Photo by FIU Athletics)

Expected to follow up with another stellar season and featured on the preseason Biletnikoff watchlist (an award for the best college WR), Chambers has superstar potential. 

Modern football has seen the rise of the tight end, a skill position that requires a player physical enough to block rushing defensive linemen and linebackers but also graceful enough to run routes like a receiver. This new wave of TE’s reached FIU with the arrival of Rivaldo Fairweather, who is poised to break out in his sophomore year.  

Fairweather is potentially the Panthers’ X-factor offensively because most opposing defenses will focus on limiting Chambers.  

The 6’5 245-pound Fairweather could star in the new offensive schemes under offensive coordinator David Yost, who historically has used tight ends heavily. Averaging 15.4 yards per catch last season alongside one touchdown and 247 yards, Fairweather was voted all C-USA preseason first-team.  

Fairweather in action last season for the Panthers. (Photo by FIU Athletics)

Defensively the Panthers have switched to a new scheme and will look to sophomore linebacker Gaethan Bernadel to build on his standout freshman season – which is needed after last season, when opponents averaged nearly 500 yards of offense per game. 

Totaling 36 tackles in nine games played as a freshman, Bernadel may be a centerpiece defensively for the Panthers. A strong tackler and adept at breaking up plays, the 6’1 210-pounder will look to punish opposition.  

Gaethan Bernadel (Photo by FIU Athletics)

Men’s Soccer 

The 2021 men’s soccer season was one of the program’s best, winning the C-USA regular season title for the first time since 2015 and making an NCAA tournament appearance.  

Despite first-round exits in both the C-USA and NCAA tournaments, the FIU squad was rich with talent. As things kickoff, keep your eyes on this talented trio. 

Bursting onto the scene is his freshman season with seven goals and one assist, Portuguese forward Bernardo Dos Santos Monteiro established himself as one of the programs most promising players in 2021.  

Dos Santos scoring one of his seven goals last season. (Photo by FIU Athletics)

A graceful and skillful winger, Dos Santos frequently tantalizes defenders with a flurry of step-overs and ball-rolls. Forming a dynamic partnership with fellow forward Stephen Afrifa, Dos Santos could be set for another impressive campaign.  

Afrifa had his breakout season in 2021, netting eight goals and assisting three. The senior Canadian forward is primed for another prolific season leading the line for the Panthers, with double figure in goals a possibility.  

A silky dribbler, Afrifa glides around the pitch with the ball seemingly on a string as he slices open opposing defenses. Both he and Dos Santos are expected to produce similar offensive outputs for a Panthers squad looking to make national noise.  

Afrifa taking on a defender in a one vs one. (Photo by FIU Athletics)

A key figure in the 2021 squad who consistently impacted the game for the Panthers was midfielder Matteo Gasperoni. The Italian settled in at the base of the FIU midfield seamlessly and controlled the tempo of the game, dictating play effortlessly.  

Gasperoni only registered one goal and one assist in last season’s campaign, but he was often the architect for most of the Blue and Gold’s chances. With a player that connects the defense and offense as well as Gasperoni does, the expectations are high for the coming season.  

The trio of names mentioned racked up numerous honors for their play last season, with all three being voted to the United Soccer Coaches All-Region teams. Dos Santos, Afrifa and Gasperoni will be key figures in an 18th ranked Panthers team chasing a national title.  

Matteo Gasperoni. (Photo by FIU Athletics)

Women’s Soccer 

Finding themselves in a similar situation to the football team, the women’s soccer squad is looking for improvement. Registering two wins last season, the Panthers displayed performances that were better than their record suggested. Here are three players that could take the women’s soccer program forward.  

Leading the line in her freshman year, Canadian forward Noemi Paquin scored an impressive five goals in ten games last season.  

Paquin taking on a defender. (Photo by FIU Athletics)

Equipped with great pace and elite ball control, Paquin is clever in her movements to free herself for chance creation. The sophomore is likely to see more time and should improve on her impressive debut campaign.  

In head coach Jonathan Garbar’s system, the center backs play a vital role in breaking up play and transitioning defense into attack, and sophomore CB Reagan Bridges helps control the backline for the Panthers.  

Standing at 5’9, Bridges uses her height to her advantage and commands the air with impressive heading ability. She is also an adapt passer and able to start a counterattack by linking with the midfielders to progress forward. Bridges is set to be a rock at the back for FIU.  

Bridges heads away a corner. (Photo by FIU Athletics)

FIU’s Nikole Solis is a dynamic midfielder that often drifts to the wide positions to help stretch opposing defenses with her impressive speed. A quick footed skillful player, the midfielder has a keen eye for a pass and can pick out a teammate with impressive efficiency.  

Scoring one in her freshman season, Solis has the potential to be a difference maker for a young FIU squad looking to build themselves into a top team in Conference USA.  

Nikole Solis. (Photo by FIU Athletics)

With games from the end of August running all the way into December, FIU’s fall student athletes will have months to make an impact on their programs, as the Panthers begin the first fall semester under new Athletics Director Scott Carr.