Men's Soccer 2013 Season Outlook
After a run that saw the Wilmington University men’s soccer team go 9-1 in their final 10 regular season contests and a earn spot the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference Tournament Semifinals in 2012, tenth year head coach Nick Papanicolas is looking for that momentum to carry over into the start of the 2013 campaign.
The team ended the year with a 12-8 overall record, earning the fifth seed in the CACC Tournament with a 6-5 conference record after a three way tie for third place did not go the Wildcats way. The team upset fourth seeded Bloomfield on the Deacons home field with a 3-2, come-from-behind victory in the CACC Tournament Quarterfinals. Playing top seed and host Post, the Wildcats run ended with a tough 1-0 loss in the Semifinals.
This season, Papanicolas replenished the roster with 10 newcomers to accommodate the 13 returning student-athletes, each of which could make an impact in any game this season.
Papanicolas also kept his coaching staff in tack for another season. He brings back Jeff Zoyac for a 10th season as he will continue to work with the defensive unit. Miles Dean returns for his seventh season and will once again work with the attacking third. Andres Hurtado begins his second season as an assistant and will work with the midfielders. After a one year hiatus from the coaching staff, Greg Cope returns to again condition the goalkeepers. Wanting to stick with the program, former player Ray Kuemmer joins the staff as a student assistant for 2013. Alumnus Tony DiVirgilio once again will aid in the student-athletes strength and conditioning aspect of the game.
“The feel of preseason has been different this year due to the amount of newcomers on the team that have the ability to make an impact this year,” Papanicolas said. “That being said, they are transitioning into our system well so far.”
The team returns four of their top six point getters from a season ago as well, as well as six players that started at least 10 matches and both goalies that started all 20 games in 2012.
Starting with the last line of defense, the team has four goalkeepers rostered with returners Aaron Brown, Chad Jenkins, and Spyros Stergiotis. Redshirt sophomore Frank Hall joins the group in 2013 with the starting spot in an open competition all preseason long. Stergiotis and Jenkins each started 10 games a year ago.
The back line will be anchored by Sam Fahnboto and 2013 captain Matko Novak, each of which started every game they played last year. On the outside, the Wildcats will feature newcomers Joe Woodley and Geoff Velasquez, as well as returners Todd Woll, Mike Valenti and Ian Wattanga to give Papanicolas maximum depth in the back field.
Leading goal scorer Otis Williams returns to the middle of the pitch as a midfielder alongside sophomore Lance Berry who finished second on the team with 14 points (five goals, four assists) as a true freshman. Redshirt freshman Kris Michael and sophomore transfer Femi Akintunde will take over the center mid positions and will be flanked by newcomers Bruno Montini and Tim Bailey.
The attacking third may have the greatest potential of the group as senior Tommy Quaranta will be joined by returners Pedro Moreira, Vitor Lima and newcomers Steven O’Connor, Jordon Ellison and Elton Joe. O’Connor joins the team from Englad while Ellison is a true freshman with a highly qualified soccer resume through high school and club. Joe moves to the attack after being named an All-American at CCBC-Essex as an outside back.
“On paper we are better than we were last year but with all the newcomers it’s all about the team chemistry and how fast we can come together on the field,” Papanicolas continued. “We made our run late in the season last year because our chemistry came together at just the right time and helped with how they finished. If the chemistry comes around earlier, then that will help with the confidence of the team and help us get off to a faster start.”
The season starts Thursday at Franklin Pierce with the first chance of catching the Wildcats in action at the WU Athletics Complex on Tuesday, September 10 at 4 p.m. as they take on Felician.
“We have to get off to a good start to game momentum for the bulk of the CACC schedule. The beginning of the season with tough regional opponents is a great opportunity for our team to play that level of competition early.”
Following the CACC opener with Felician, the heart of the Wildcats’ non-conference schedule comes into play. The team will head to play in the University of Bridgeport Invitational and square off against LIU Post and Bridgeport before returning home to square off against Millersville at home on September 17.