Men's Soccer: Men look to protect ECAC title
Published: Monday, August 27, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 12:08
While the men’s soccer team was dismayed over its inability to qualify for the NCAA Division III Tournament last season, winning the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference championship was a nice consolation prize.
The Judges completed a 15-5-1 campaign by ending the season with a resounding 8-0 romp at home over Albertus Magnus College in the ECAC final.
Despite last year’s success, the squad still has quite a few holes to fill. The Judges lost All-University Athletic Association First Team midfielder Theo Terris ’12, as well as as All-UAA Second Team center-backs Ari Silver ’12 and David McCoy ’12. However, the team still looks to keep the good times rolling.
Coach Mike Coven, entering his 40th year at the helm for the Judges, stated that losing the senior trio would undoubtedly be a big blow to the team, but the new recruiting class should ease the transition.
“Our big question is, ‘How has our bench developed?’” said Coven. “Most of our incoming freshmen have played at a high level, which will make things easier, but they’ve got to adapt quickly. Last year’s senior class was very special. We lose some depth, scoring, and three of the best players we’ve ever had.”
The return of All-UAA Honorable Mention goalie Blake Minchoff ’13 should certainly help. He recorded 12 shutouts last year in net, two shy of the school record. He will look to anchor a defense that led the UAA in goals-against average, shutout percentage and save percentage.
The biggest questions for the team this year remain to be answered: who will play in the rear guard for the Judges? Although Brandeis returns Ben Applefield ’14 and Robbie Lynch ’15 at left-back and right-back, respectively, Coven may prefer to move both of those players up to the center of the field.
“We’re not sure what to do with [Applefield],” said Coven. “He’s indicated that he would like to move forward. He could be as good as anyone.”
“[Lynch] was always an attacking player. My position is that you always want to have your best 11 players on the field. He came in at right-back as a [first-year] and did a very nice job,” Coven explained further.
There are several players who will look to make an impact. Ethan Berceli ’14, who missed the entire season last year due to injury, returns. Martin Freeman ’15 has been touted as a potential central defender. Gaelen Oliver ’15 and Steve Twerago ’15 could also fill the gaps at center.
In addition to his already-established squad, Coven eagerly awaits the arrival of his first years. “Some of the freshmen might have to come in and play defense right off the bat,” he said. “They’ll have to be ready to do that.”
Regardless of who comes in, Coven says that most players—including those coming in—have played at a high level of club soccer, which will make the adjustment easier.
In the center of the pitch, the loss of Terris certainly hurts. However, the Judges boast a midfield that can go toe-to-toe with most teams. Joe Eisenbies ’13, poised to build off his ECAC Player of the Tournament distinction at the end of last season, will look to dictate the tempo of the game from his defensive midfield position.
Additionally, Sam Ocel ’13 and Lee Russo ’13 can switch between midfield and forward. Their presence in the center of the park rests on whether Applefield and Lynch come forward from the back.
Kyle Feather ’14 scored six goals last year and will certainly look to add to that total this season.
Up front, Tyler Savonen ’15 netted an impressive eight tallies as a striker. Coven is confident that Savonen’s regained health will result in a break-out season.
“[Savonen] wasn’t ready to be a starter last year, as he was just coming back from shoulder surgery. Towards the end of the season, though, he became more and more comfortable. He’s unique.”
Though there is a lot of tweaking still to be done, Coven is optimistic about this team’s chances.
“One of the biggest reasons we are so successful is because our players are passionate about the game,” he said. “They just love to play soccer. They work hard, are passionate about the game, and the team is most important. They’re a great group.
“I’m looking forward to Monday.”
Given what this group accomplished last year, so should his team’s fans.
The Judges will kick off their season with a match against Ithaca College at the Keene State Tournament this Saturday.