The men’s soccer team knows what it needs to accomplish this year.
After failing to make the Atlantic Ten Conference tournament last season and finishing with a 6-10-2 record, the players have said they are ready to start the rebuilding process.
Out are four-year starters Joe Brocker, Tony Donatelli and Timmy Greer. That trio helped lead the Owls to back-to-back A-10 Championship games in 2003 and 2004. The Owls dropped both games.
A bundle of new players – 18 to be exact – are in.
Defenseman Matt Maher, one of three seniors, said he has seen the team chemistry improve since last season.
“We didn’t have too good a team last year,” Maher said. “But it seems, even in the short time that we’ve known each other that we’re coming together as a team. The three seniors are showing the guys the ropes while they learn the coaches’ new systems – which is very key to the future success of this program.”
Coach David MacWilliams said he enjoys having so many new players because it makes vying for positions much more competitive.
MacWilliams also said the team has spent significant time developing the team’s offense, which struggled last season, tallying only six goals in 18 games.
“Last year we didn’t score enough goals and I think that came and hurt us in the end,” MacWilliams said. “But the guys are working really hard and I think if we can consistently score goals [then] that’s going to help us tremendously.”
The Owls missed a spot in the A-10 tournament due to a tie-breaker.
Senior midfielder Ryan Heins and sophomore midfielder Ben Marucci return this season to lead the offense. Heins led the team with three goals last season. Marucci finished with two.
MacWilliams expects a strong returning defensive presence to guide the team.
Maher and senior Chris Shelton each return to their starting positions on defense. Maher contributed two assists last season while Shelton is a three-year starter.
Goalkeeping is also expected to be strong with junior Tony Pratico and sophomore Bryant Hosler each returning.
Pratico finished the 2005 season with a 0.98 goals against average and 38 saves. Hosler completed the season with a 2.89 GAA and 29 saves.
MacWilliams said he is pleased with what the returning players are doing on the field, but also with how some of the new players have been stepping up to fill positions.
“[Freshman defenseman] Brant Hovington will be starting in the back,” MacWilliams said. “He’s going to see a lot of time. We have [freshman midfielder] Francois Sagna who has come in from France and is doing a real nice job.
“We have [freshman forward] Augustin Coly who is also from France and [junior forward] Eddie Romero who is a transfer from [New Jersey Institute of Technology]. These are the guys who will be seeing a lot of time and we’re looking forward to having them help us score some goals this year.”
Despite all the changes, Maher said he expects good things to happen this season.
“We’ll probably do pretty well in the A-10,” he said. “I can definitely see ourselves making the A-10 tournament this year.
“We expect to bring things together and have a successful season.”
MacWilliams agreed that this new season should give the Owls a much-needed fresh start.
“When we have as many changes as we’ve had, it’s a tough situation for the players,” he said. “We need to make sure everyone is on the same page. We have our work cut out for us. We need to make sure that our confidence level stays high and I think if we can do that, we’ll be fine.”
Melissa DiPento can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.