August 30, 2012

Men's Soccer Season Preview

LEXINGTON, Va. -- For the Washington and Lee men's soccer team, the 2012 campaign may turn into one of the most successful seasons in the program's recent history. With few losses to graduation and the return of key players from last season, Head Coach Rolf Piranian hopes to be on his way to earning the program's first ODAC Championship since 2000.

"This team has a special feel to me," said Piranian. " "We have good talent and great depth. I think the preseason training is bringing us together and this could turn into a special season."

The team will also feature experienced leadership as seniors Dylan Norvell, Dave Phillips and Conor Starr all return after serving as captains last year.

Piranian recognizes the dedication each of these men has given to the program throughout their careers.  "Norvell and Phillips are both great leaders," he commented. "They both work hard on the field and can bring together the team whenever needed."

Starr will captain the defense, which served as the team's main strength a season ago when the Generals posted a conference-leading 0.78 goals-against average with nine shutouts en route to earning the third seed for the ODAC Tournament.  He started 14 contests and finished among the team's scoring leaders with three goals last year.  He was also honored by the ODAC as a second team all-conference selection.

"During his four years on the team, Starr has always been a vital player," said Piranian. "He plays an important role on the field and his leadership will be critical for the entire team's performance."

Starr is one of four starting backs that return, headlined by senior Basti Richter, who garnered first team all-conference and second team all-state accolades in 2011.  He started 15 contests and scored one goal.

Junior Zach Clarke (1 asst) and sophomore Al Organ (2 asst) both started all 17 games last year and are poised for tremendous seasons.  Junior Brendan Farley will also likely see a lot of time with the Generals' defensive unit after playing in 13 contests last year.

"The back four are the life and death of this team," noted Piranian. "They are an experienced group and will work hard to not give away goals to our opponents."

Piranian went on to note that first-years Cary Carabasi and Liam Gaziano are ready to make contributions at the collegiate level early on, while classmate Ben Bayles will also see significant playing time.

For all the experience in the back, the team will feature relative inexperience in goal following the graduation of Ben Petitto and his 0.52 goals-against average from a year ago.  Sophomore Albert Civitarese appears to have a leg up for the starting nod following preseason.

"In these preseason practices, Civitarese looks like he is ready to take over the starting position," added Piranian.

As is the case with most teams, games will be won and lost in the midfield and Piranian is excited about the group that he'll send out to the pitch in 2012.  Junior Parker Wolfinger headlines the group after earning Second Team All-ODAC honors last season.  He played in all 17 games in 2012, starting 12 contests and scoring four goals.

Junior Justin TenBrook returns as the team's leading scorer from a season ago (11 pts), while senior John Stallé (1 goal, 3 asst.) and Toby D'Ambola (7 gms) will likely man the center midfield position.

"Both of these guys will be dangerous at midfield for us this year," said Piranian of Stallé and D'Ambola.

Junior Alex Zelinski and sophomores Colton Klein and Max Quellhorst, along with German exchange student Robin Gollbach, will also figure prominently in the midfield.

"Our midfield group features a cast of very strong players," noted Piranian. "We are able to fill key positions with veteran players, giving us great depth on the field."

Up front the Generals return plenty of quality players, including captains Norvell and Phillips, who provide solid leadership for a group that also includes sophomore Zach Colby. Phillips was the fifth-leading scorer from last season (4 pts.), while Norvell played in 13 games, scoring one goal.

As with every other season, W&L expects to be in the mix for an ODAC Championship. Piranian recognizes that "there will be no easy game" for the Generals this season.

"The ODAC is a dog fight every year," said Piranian. "We will go out each game and hopefully take care of business."

The Generals have suffered from a lack of home contests over the last few seasons, but with eight home dates in 2012, W&L will have the opportunity to play in front of friendly crowds this season.  Piranian knows his team typically plays well on its own pitch and believes this fact will have a huge impact on the season.  Among the goals he hopes to attain is another trip to the ODAC Tournament.

"We want to continue to be one of only two teams in the league to make the tournament every year," commented Piranian. "We are proud to be able to say that about our program."

W&L will kick off its season at the Fuzzy Williams Memorial Tourney tomorrow at Bethany College. The Generals open with Moravian at 3:00 pm.

 

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