Men's Soccer Kicks Off 2013 Friday

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Friday night marks the beginning of a new season for the University of Pennsylvania’s men’s soccer program – the 109th in program history. James C. Gentle Head Coach of Men’s Soccer Rudy Fuller, entering his 16th season at the helm of the Quakers, will welcome back 21 returning players for the 2013 campaign in addition to five newcomers.

The depth of experienced players and the addition of a recruiting class ranked No. 25 in the nation by allow Fuller and his coaching staff to choose from a variety of options when it comes to lineups – each machination likely to produce a plethora of offensive chances.

In 2012, the Quakers finished tied for second among Ivy League clubs in goals scored with 27. Despite the graduation of top goal-scorer Travis Cantrell and his seven goals from 2013, Penn will dress eight players who scored at least one goal last season – including a pair of forwards unrivaled by any Ancient Eight program.

Senior Stephen Baker (six goals) and junior Duke Lacroix (five goals) combined for over 40% of Penn tallies last season. Only Dartmouth will return more firepower in a twosome than the duo of Baker and Lacroix. Of the top-ten scorers among Ivy League players last season, only Penn will return two for 2013 – Baker and Lacroix. Both had outstanding summers for their PDL teams and enter the season primed to continue their growth as dominant players up top for the Red and Blue. Sam Engs and Mariano Gonzalez-Guerineau are players with experience at the forward position for the Quakers who return after scoring a pair of goals each last year. A pair of freshmen round out the options up top for the Red and Blue – Sam Hayward and Alex Neumann – and both are expected to play a role in the forward group’s versatility and depth this season.

The midfield was Cantrell’s domain for the past four seasons, and a new leader will emerge in the middle during the 2013 slate. Louis Schott was Cantrell’s partner at center mid in 2012 and is expected to assume a larger role at that position this year. Schott started to show signs of an offensive touch in addition to his defensive capabilities, pitching in a pair of goals in 2012. Senior Austin Kinn has appeared in 30 matches over his first three seasons, including 15 starts, and he could add a wealth of experience to the middle of the field. Out wide, Alex Reddy has been a strong left-footed presence for the Quakers the last three seasons. With 33 caps and 17 starts under his belt at a host of positions, Reddy is a dangerous threat on the left flank and capable of holding position in the center if called upon. Outside of the three veterans, a number of underclassmen will be vying for minutes in the midfield. Sophomore Alex Murphy came off the bench in 13 matches last season – the most appearances of any rookie in 2012 – and has used a summer stint and national championship with Lehigh Valley United to improve his game heading into his second season. Classmate Forrest Clancy was a steady part of Penn’s lineup early in 2012 before an ACL injury ended his campaign. Look for Clancy to find his footing quickly and return to the form which had him as one of the first men off the bench early in 2012. A wildcard in the midfield is James Rushton. The sophomore missed all but one game in 2012, but should factor into the midfield rotation now that he is at full strength. In terms of newcomers, Travis Pillon and Matt Poplawski are fresh faces in the midfield for Fuller’s side. Pillon – a club teammate of Sam Engs – is slated to position on the flank, while Poplawski could step into the center of the field quickly.

Defense has long been a hallmark of Penn Soccer and the 2013 edition of the Quakers will look to erase any lingering thoughts of a 2012 campaign which saw 37 goals conceded. The Red and Blue will return six players who saw time on the back line in 2012, including returning captain Jonny Dolezal. A stalwart on the defensive side, Dolezal has the most career starts out of any defender with 34 over his career. An honorable mention All-Ivy selection in 2012, Dolezal is capable of manning the center of the back line or flanking out wide. Last season, he connected for one goal with a pair of assists when asked to join the run of play in the offensive end. Classmate Nicky Yin has been alongside Dolezal practically every game of their career, with 46 appearances and 32 starts over his three years to give Fuller an experience duo to build his back line around. Jason deFaria and Ethan Jones round out the upperclass defenders with 22 career appearances between them. A pair of sophomores moves into their second seasons as collegiate players with eyes on increased roles. Griffin Hefner started the final four matches of 2012 after missing the first two-thirds of the season. A 6-4 defender, he is a natural fit to move into the center of the backline and provide a commanding presence on set pieces. Aaron Chen has developed over the last season, and is primed to factor into the rotation.

In goal, the reins are likely to fall into the hands of Tyler Kinn. With eight career appearances and seven starts, Kinn has seen considerable minutes over the last two seasons, with 27 total saves and a .711 save percentage. He has twice earned Philadelphia Soccer Six Defensive Player of the Week honors in his career, coming up big in late-season matches. Behind Kinn will be Mike DeSantis and Max Polkinhorne. A two-year member of the team, DeSantis has yet to see action in a match, but he has been well-schooled in the defensive strategy of the Red and Blue. Polkinhorne comes to Penn after a year at Santa Clara, and he is also looking for his first action.

The Red and Blue will be tested throughout the campaign, with five matches against teams which reached the NCAA Tournament in 2012. Last season’s national runner-up, Georgetown, highlights the non-conference slate as the Hoyas will visit Rhodes Field on September 19 as part of the Ivy League/BIG EAST CHALLENGE. Drexel and Florida Gulf Coast are the other non-conference opponents which played in the national tournament last season, while Brown and Cornell will give the Quakers a pair of Ivy matches against NCAA Tournament opponents.

Penn will play its first-ever match against four different opponents during the course of the 2013 season, headlines by a trip to California in the middle of September. The Quakers will first take on Cal-Poly on September 13 before heading 100 miles south to UC-Santa Barbara on September 15. Penn’s second match of the season will showcase a new opponent, the Sacred Heart Pioneers, on September 8. Towards the end of September, the Quakers will host Florida Gulf Coast at Rhodes Field, the September 27 matchup the first-ever between the two schools.

Up first for Penn is Stony Brook on Friday night in Penn’s first-ever match at Penn Park. This will be the second-ever meeting between the Quakers and Sea Wolves. In 2011, Penn scored three times in the opening 18’ to storm away from the Sea Wolves at Rhodes Field.
The Sea Wolves are 1-0-0 this season, owners of a 2-0 win over Sacred Heart – Penn’s opponent on Sunday. Stony Brook scored twice in the first half, Alejandro Fritz connecting in the 24’ on a penalty kick and Favio Sbarra adding a goal in the 31st minute. The Sea Wolves made goalkeeper Jason Orban’s day easy – conceding just one shot on goal which Orban denied for the clean sheet.

Selected second in the America East preseason poll, the Sea Wolves have 13 freshmen on their roster – part of a 16-newcomer class for the 2013 season. Winners of the last three America East championships, the Sea Wolves are looking to replace three of their top four scorers from last season – Fritz the lone returner. He went for five goals and six assists last season en route to a spot on the America East All-Rookie Team.

On Sunday, the Quakers will take on Sacred Heart for the first time in program history. The Pioneers enter the weekend with a 1-2-0 record, defeating NJIT in their last match, 2-1. The Pioneers have had three different goal scorers so far this season, with Aaron Burrell, Mahmoud Kafel and Ronaldo Vieira each finding the back of the net. Against NJIT on Tuesday, Sacred Heart needed two goals in the final 21 minutes to rally for the win – Vieira netting the game-winner in the 72’. Tucker Hackett has started all three matches for the Pioneers, making 15 saves. Two-time All-American and three-time NEC Defensive Player of the Year Marcello Castro has graduated, leaving a void on defense that the Pioneers are looking to fill with four freshmen getting early looks.