Monday, August 28, 2006

Are You Ready for Some Foot-Ball?

The 2006 men's soccer season begins on Friday with Johns Hopkins, the preseason coaches poll favorite, and defending champion Muhlenberg looking for an unprecedented sixth Centennial title. The Blue Jays have captured the championship in each of the last five even-numbered years (1996-98-00-02-04), while the Mules won the last two odd-numbered year seasons (2003-05). Here is a team-by-team preview:

Dickinson: The Red Devils are coming off their best season since 1998 (12-5-1). Senior F Andy Rowek and junior F Bobby Malek were second-team All-CC selections a year ago. Rowek scored five of his team-high six goals in the final five matches, including two in the win over Gettysburg. Malek was the team's third-leading goal scorer with five tallies. Soph Rodrigo Barboza is the heir apparent to the goalkeeper position. He had an 87.1 save percentage and an 0.67 goals against average in eight matches a year ago.

Franklin & Marshall: The Diplomats return four All-CC selections from their 8-5-3 campaign of 2005. Junior F Brandon Corday was a third-team All-Region performer after leading the team in points with 5-6-16. Junior M Chris Campbell, senior B Alex Shuptar and senior GK Ed Stelz are also back in the fold. Stelz posted an 0.96 goals against average a year ago.

Gettysburg: The Bullets entered the 2005 CC tournament as the No. 5 seed, but knocked off Johns Hopkins and McDaniel to reach the Centennial final before succumbing to Muhlenberg. Senior M Garrett Bruno returns after earning first-team All-CC honors last fall with six goals and an assist. Sophomore F Chris Bayon added five goals. Soph Adam Finkel is one of the candidates to replace Nick Bundtzen-Wells in goal.

Haverford: The Fords are hoping that a nine-day preseason trip to Brazil will pay off in improving upon last season's 5-11-1 record. Sophomore F Josh Price is the leading returning goal scorer (3), while junior Charlie Rubin, and sophs Panos Panidis and Eric Kissinger each had two goals and two assists. Soph Adam Care is the front-runner for the keeper job.

Johns Hopkins: The Blue Jays received six of a possible nine first-place votes to earn the preseason favorite label in the CC. Hopkins returns six starters from a squad that went 14-2-5 and won the ECAC South championship. Sophomore F Nicholas Gauna is the leading returning scorer (9-4-22), while classmate Matthew Carlson was third in scoring with 5-0-10. Senior Dan Coble started 18 matches in net last season with eight solo shutouts and an 0.77 goals against mark.

McDaniel: The Green Terror (14-4-3) had an outstanding 2005 regular-season, earning the top seed in the CC playoffs. But the season came to a skidding thud with an OT loss to Gettysburg in the semis and a loss to Grove City in the ECAC South semis. Graduation hit the Green and Gold hard as three first-team All-CC performers received their sheepskin. Donzell Tate is the leading returning scorer with three goals, while junior Bill Druckenmiller added a pair. Senior B Scott Morrow (pictured) was the 2005 CC Player of the Year and returns to acnhor the defense.

Muhlenberg: The Mules won their fifth Centennial championship last season, knocking off Swarthmore and Gettysburg in the CC tournament. Muhlenberg graduated eight seniors from a squad that fell in OT to Wesleyan in the NCAAs. Junior M Jonathan Kliewer tied for the Conference lead with seven assists and will be a key to the Mule offense. Junior GK Peter Bennett back-stopped a defense that allowed just three goals in Berg's final six CC contests.

Swarthmore: What does the Garnet do for an encore? All Swarthmore did last season with equal its best-ever Centennial record (6-2-1) and qualify for the CC tournament as the No. 2 seed. Although its playoff run ended with a loss to eventual champ Muhlenberg in the semis, the Garnet announced it was a team to be reckoned with in 2006. A strong defense returns with juniors Brendan Grady and Darren Johnson. Junior M Patrick Christmas was a honorable mention All-CC performer, while F Stu Leon will pace the attack.

Ursinus: The Bears failed to win a Conference match last season, but will turn to a host of talented players in their quest to reach the Centennial playoffs. Sophomore F Donald Reilly led the team with four goals a year ago, while senior M Corey Goldberg handed out a pair of assists. Michael Norris and Ed de Gottal will battle for the goalkeeping position.

Washington: There's a new coach and a new facility in Chestertown, as the Shoremen look to return to their winning ways. Drew Hoffman comes to the Shore after serving as the top assistant coach at Army since 2000. Roy Kirby Jr. Stadium is ready for play this fall, complete with new turf and lights. Senior F Josh Todd, an honorable mention All-CC pick last season, will lead the offense after tying for the CC lead in goals with 10. Soph Brian Schultz added five goals in his rookie campaign. Senior GK Sean Ferri returns after posting an 80.8 save percentage in 2005.

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