August 29, 2013

W&L Men's Soccer 2013 Season Preview

LEXINGTON, Va. -- A year removed from being knocked out of the 2012 Old Dominion Athletic Conference Tournament semifinals on penalty kicks, Washington and Lee soccer returns an experienced roster capable and determined to claim the program’s first ODAC title since 2000.

“We are one of two teams to make the ODAC tournament every year and we are hoping to keep that going and win the whole thing,” stated Piranian.

W&L will seek to build upon its offense that netted 30 goals and a stingy defense that posted a 0.69 goals-against average in 2012, 23rd-best in the nation. The Generals finished the season ranked fourth in the conference in scoring offense, averaging 1.67 goals per game.

“It was a pretty good season last year,” commented Piranian. “We were disappointed how it ended, but we had a balanced team in terms of scoring and defending. Turn to this year and we lose a huge chunk of that team. It is a totally different team this year.”

Led by its trio of captains, senior midfielders Parker Wolfinger (Greer, S.C./Riverside), and Alex Zelinski (Rochester Hills, Mich./Brother Rice), and junior midfielder Al Organ (St. Paul, Minn./DeLaSalle), Washington and Lee appears to have the right mix of explosive offensive ability, a lockdown defense and unquestioned leadership.

“All three have played large roles on our team,” noted Piranian. “Parker has been a starter all along. He is a talented outside midfielder. Alex is a gifted midfielder, while Al has been a part the back line and the midfield. 

With the return of junior Zach Colby (Prairie Village, Kan./Shawnee Mission East) in the front line, along with several other veterans and a few newcomers, W&L appears to be set on the offensive end.

A 2012 first team all-conference selection, Colby is widely recognized as one of the top players in the ODAC. Colby led the ODAC in goals (13), points (27) and game-winning goals (5), while appearing in all 18 games with eight starts en route to receiving First Team VaSID All-State accolades. He finished the year ranked fifth in the W&L single-season record book for goals and second in game-winning goals.

“He is a talented young man,” commented Piranian on Colby. “He has matured immensely and that will pay off in the end.”

Joining Colby on the offensive third is classmate Toby D’Ambola (Marietta, Ga./Kennesaw Mountain) and sophomore newcomer Fred Gisa (Kigali, Rwanda/Sonrise). 

“Chemistry between the forwards up front is a big thing, and Gisa is working well with Zach,” noted Piranian. “Toby will factor into the mix as well and help us up top.” 

The largest returning unit is the midfield, where Piranian will have the luxury of eight returners.

Wolfinger and Zelinski will lead an experienced midfield. They will be expected to step up a year after scoring three goals and adding one assist each last season. Organ will also anchor the midfield after starting in 10 games as both a defender and midfielder last season.

“These three had a big impact a year ago,” noted Piranian. “We are looking at them to continue to grow and provide a dynamic presence on the midfield unit.” 

The defense will be the staple of the club, an annual strength of Piranian’s teams. Last season, W&L was particularly stingy, holding opponents to a league low 13 goals last season, in large part to an all-conference back-line, headlined by junior goalkeeper Albert Civitarese (Bridgeville, Pa./Sewickley Academy).

Civitarese, a second team all-conference selection as a sophomore, was a rock last season. He finished with a 0.66 goals-against average, ranking 23rd best in the NCAA, and eight shutouts, ranking first in the ODAC. 

Sophomore Kieran McQuilkin (New Canaan, Conn./King & Low – Heywood Thomas) will also vie for a starting spot in goal. Last season, he started two games and recorded two saves and one shutout. 

The defense will also lean on the returning talents of senior Zach Clarke (Beaumont, Texas/Monsignor Kelly Catholic) along with sophomore Cary Carabasi (Bryn Mawr, Pa./Harriton).

“Carabasi is probably the most important player on defense. He has really stepped up as a leader this year,” said Piranian. “Clarke is also a really talented defender, he is a much more mature player than he was last season.” 

In addition to these time-tested veterans, several newcomers will have a chance to make an immediate impact in the back third, including Patrick Barry (West Roxbury, Mass./Roxbury Latin School) and Mason Billings (Greensboro, N.C./Page).

“Barry and Billings have done a tremendous job for us, they are both great athletes,” commented Piranian. “Barry is the guy we bounce around all over the place, but we need him at center back. Billings has been solid and will start for us at left back.”

Washington and Lee will play a challenging 2013 slate, with a competitive non-conference schedule and the always-tough ODAC slate.

“We expect our non-conference games to be pretty challenging,” said Piranian. “We have five games before we open up in the ODAC, so they should prepare us for our conference slate.

W&L will kick off its season at Denison on August 30th at 7:30 pm. The Generals open up the conference slate on September 18th with a home match against Hampden-Sydney at 4:30 pm.

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