Men’s Soccer Eager to Stake Claim on National Landscape
GEORGETOWN, Texas - With a renewed focus the Southwestern men's soccer team is set to open the 2012 season and take the national rankings by storm with a deep, relentless team.
Leading the pack is a senior class that is not only strong on the field, but also embodies the ideal leadership characteristics coaches look for in a group. Second Team All-SCAC selection Evan Perkins and Forrest Baker will serve as captains this season and when combined with Ryan Staten and Charlie Schreck make up one of the most experienced foursomes Coach Gregory has had. "We pulled them together the very first morning and told them that they really have to be the team within the team," shares Gregory. "They have been successful in the past and know what it takes to make that happen again."
Perkins led the team in goals last season despite missing part of the year due to injury. Baker has been a solid midfielder and helped kick-start the offensive attack while Schreck denies opposing teams an opportunity at goal from the defensive line. Staten returns after taking last season off to focus on his studies and will provide more firepower and an additional scoring threat from the midfield. "This is a very solid group and they got themselves very fit over the summer and are eager to step up and make it a great senior year," states Gregory.
A large junior class has seen a lot of playing time through their years at SU and will continue to be difference makers this season. Matthew Nickell heads up this talented class, leading the Pirates in assists last season while Timothy Eamma returns as Southwestern's third leading scorer last year. The duo will no doubt wreak havoc on opposing teams while Steven Resnik provides breakaway speed on the front line. Daniel Poole has racked up a ton of time between the pipes, posting a .750 save percentage and 1.38 goals against average last season and will provide a solid base for SU to build from. "The juniors were a great group coming in and are the core of the team," states Gregory. "They are ready to go and they are going to be key to helping the seniors."
Paden Williams, Garhett Bonneaux, Colin Croschere and the rest of the sophomore class got some good game experience last season and will continue to provide support and maintain a high level of intensity throughout the game.
A large first-year class, not just in numbers but also in stature, will grace the sidelines this season and could surprise some opposing teams. "We lucked out in some respects as they are athletic, big and confident," states Gregory. "It doesn't matter who they are up against, they are not intimidated by anyone on the field."
Frank Doran joins the SU staff this season and will head up the JV program. "We started this pilot program five years ago and after evaluating the success of it [assistant coach Zack] Pope and I sat down and decided that it really was worth the investment and fortunately the school gave us the resources we needed to continue it," shares Gregory. "We feel very fortunate to get Frank. He has a wealth of experience and after putting soccer on the back burner for a while he has a chance to be back in the locker room and back in the game he feels like a kid again."
Getting behind the defensive line and applying continuous pressure on opposing teams will be the heart of the Pirates game this season. "We haven't put the other team's defense under enough pressure in the past and that seemed to work well in the spring," states Gregory. "I think a strength of the team is that we have enough skill to keep the ball this year and if something isn't working on this side we can bring it around and try it on the other. We will have enough variety to adapt and adjust and play to our strengths but also figure out what is going to work against each opponent. The depth of what they can do is going to be pretty exciting to develop."
Gregory wastes no time putting his men to the test as they open the season at Texas Lutheran on August 31 before coming home to face Willamette University in their home opener on September 1. After getting their feet wet, the Pirates play host to their first of three top 10 nationally-ranked opponents this season. They host UT Tyler on Labor Day and will get a true sense of how they match-up. This season more than ever it is imperative that Southwestern comes ready to play as all 20 games are against regional opponents and can, therefore, help them earn an at-large bid into the NCAA National Tournament at the end of the season. "This is the first year since I have been here that every game is against a regional opponent," states Gregory.
Southwestern opens SCAC conference action on September 21, facing Colorado College at home. The new conference will provide more competition and give teams the chance to face each other twice in the season.
"It is great for our strength of schedule and if we do very well we will have a better chance come tournament time."