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PHILADELPHIA - With Friday's opener against Lafayette (5 p.m.) at Rhodes Field, Penn begins a 2012 men's soccer campaign which will begin a new era for the Quakers. Graduated is a senior class which accounted for many seminal moments for the Red and Blue over its four years, but in no way is the cupboard bare for head coach Rudy Fuller as he begins his 15th season as the James C. Gentle Head Coach of Men's Soccer at Penn.
The Red and Blue finished 2011 with an 8-7-2 record, finishing sixth in a tight Ivy League race with a 3-4 mark in conference play. The Quakers found themselves in plenty of tight matches throughout 2011, finishing with a 4-5 record in one-goal games to go with the two draws.
Seven starters return for the club, led by co-captains Travis Cantrell and Jonny Dolezal. Cantrell has appeared in every possible match over his first three seasons, and has scored six goals with eight assists over his career. Cantrell will man the midfield for the Quakers, adept at transitioning the offense and marking opposing teams' skilled players on the defensive side of the ball as well. Dolezal moves to centerback after two seasons playing on the flank as part of Penn's back four. In 30 career caps, Dolezal has three assists, two of which came last season.
The Quakers boast as potent a duo of forwards as any team in the Ivy League in junior Stephen Baker and sophomore Duke Lacroix. In 32 career games, Baker as scored 13 goals with four assists. Over his career, Baker has scored in 10 games - Penn going on to win all ten matches. Lacroix, the 2011 Ivy League Rookie of the Year, matched Baker with five goals and two assists in 2011 as he earned honorable mention All-Ivy honors. A second-team All-Freshman selection by CollegeSoccerNews.com, Lacroix had a pair of two-goal matches last season and is primed to increase his output in 2012.
Returning to the central midfield for the Quakers is Louis Schott. The sophomore from Washington appeared in all 17 matches last season, starting 12 of the final 13. He had an assist in his rookie campaign, and should pair with Cantrell to produce a formidable shutdown duo. Left-footed junior Alex Reddy saw time in 15 matches last season, recording one assist, and is slated to man the left flank in the midfield. Junior Austin Kinn played in 14 matches last season and brings experience to the midfield, joined by sophomores Mariano Gonzalez-Guerineau, Tom O'Brien and Kamar Saint-Louis.
In the backfield, junior Nicky Yin has appeared in 32 career matches, starting 16 last season. He has played mainly outside, but is versatile enough to move inside if needed or even up to midfield. Senior Bryan Yasukochi played in seven matches last season, recording his first collegiate goal in the process. Steady on the back four, Yasukochi is set for time on the outside of the defensive line. Junior Ethan Jones and sophomore Jason deFaria are veterans also competing for playing time on the back four.
In goal, sophomore Max Kurtzman is recovered from a season-ending injury suffered last October and set to regain his starting job. Kurtzman posted a pair of clean sheets last season, making 41 saves and posting a 6-6-2 record with a 1.17 goals-against average as he was named to TopDrawerSoccer.com's Top-100 Freshmen list. Tyler Kinn started the final three matches when Kurtzman went out with injury, posting a 2-1-0 record in his three starts. Sophomore Mike DeSantis is the third keeper in the stable.
Fuller brought in seven freshmen to bolster his squad for 2012, three defenders and four midfielders. Aaron Chen, Henry Gager and Griffin Heffner are three defenders, each over six-feet tall, who have played well enough in preseason to compete for playing time right away on the back line. London, England native Forrest Clancy joins Sam Engs, Alex Murphy and James Rushton in the midfield where playing time is also up for grabs.
Penn opens its 2012 season on August 31 against Lafayette at 5 p.m. The Quakers play their first five matches at Rhodes Field, including three against first-time opponents - New Hampshire (Sept. 2), Air Force (Sept. 7) and Hartford (Sept. 9). Ivy League play begins Sept. 29 at Cornell and ends on Senior Day against Harvard at Rhodes Field on Nov. 10.