Sports

Consistency, recovery inspire men’s soccer’s hope for another Ivy crown

With eight returning starters, men’s soccer looks to recreate its 2011 championship season

By
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, September 5, 2014

After finishing fourth in the Ivy League last season, the men’s soccer team will rely on its familiarity with the system, the return of co-captain Ben Maurey ’15.5 and a talented crop of first-years in hopes of propelling itself toward a conference championship.

Bruno will trot out a very similar line-up to last season’s starting eleven. The team lost just four seniors to graduation, though three of them played roles central to the team’s success last year. Josh Weiner ’14 started all but one game in goal, while Voltaire Escalona ’14 and Jose Salama ’14 were the team’s second- and third-leading point scorers, respectively.

The Bears have an able goalie who has been waiting for a chance to jump into the starting lineup. Mitch Kupstas ’14.5 will inherit the starting job, after a broken foot landed him a spot on the bench at the start of last season. Kupstas had the ability to be the starter last year, but the team was reluctant to swap goalies midway through the season, said Head Coach Patrick Laughlin.

Kupstas “really established himself in goal over the summer,” Laughlin said. “He’ll get the starting nod this Friday night. He’s come back this year ready to go, has a great presence in goal and he’s done a great job so far.”

The backline remains entirely intact, as not a single defender graduated in 2014. Mike Leone ’17 and Tim Whalen ’16 will anchor the defense from the center back position, while Jack Gorab ’16 will support the offense on the flanks.

Bruno’s midfield will also be constructed primarily by returning starters. Tariq Akeel ’16, a First Team All-Ivy selection and the team’s leading goal scorer last season, will play his usual box-to-box role alongside Second Team All-Ivy co-captain Daniel Taylor ’15.

The biggest changes come at the striker position. Escalona and Salama served as two pieces of a three-headed striker rotation, along with Nate Pomeroy ’17. While Pomeroy will return, the Bears will need to replace the seven goals and nine assists that the two senior strikers contributed last season.

Again, the Bears have an answer, filling the void this time with a familiar face. In an early contest last season against Indiana University, Maurey was changing directions when he rolled his ankle and simultaneously hyperextended and twisted his knee. The rolled ankle turned out to be a syndesmosis tear, while the knee injury was diagnosed as a torn popliteus muscle. The injury sidelined Maurey for the rest of the season.

Maurey persevered and returned to the field, competing in a semi-professional league in California over the summer.

“I’m fully healthy now,” Maurey said. “Last spring was filled with rehab and recovery. It was a slow process, but I’m probably in the best shape of my life right now.”

In his sophomore season, Maurey led the team in scoring with five goals, added two assists and earned a First Team All-Ivy selection. He eluded defenders on countless occasions, ripping over 40 shots across 18 games.

“He’s a very difficult matchup for the opposition because of his combination of size and speed,” Laughlin said. “He makes the game easier for others. We’ll see a lot of guys benefiting from his presence on the field this season.”

Maurey and Pomeroy will likely spearhead the 4-4-2 formation that the Bears like to play. The team looks to push the ball up the field quickly without sacrificing possession, and this formation allows Bruno to take advantage of its depth at striker and outside midfielder, Maurey said. The squad can also swap a striker for a midfielder and run either a 4-5-1 or a 4-3-3, depending on how high the outside midfielders push up.

“Style-wise, we’re going to be a team that is able to attack quickly and get the ball forward while pressuring our opponents in their half,” Laughlin said.

The seven first-years on the team will have to learn to play in Bruno’s fast-paced offense, but if the preseason is any indication of their abilities, a number of first-years should make an impact from the outset of the season, Laughlin said.

Gabe Welp ’18 has worked his way into contention for a starting role on the backline, despite all four starters from last year returning to the team. Louis Zingas ’18 battled some injuries during preseason but won the team’s three-mile fitness test, completing the race in under 17 minutes. Nico Lozada-Smith ’18 has proven himself as a reliable central midfielder and could be “the first guy off the bench,” Maurey said.

“All of our (first-years) have performed really well thus far,” Laughlin said. “This weekend, I think you might see between three and six (first-years) either starting or playing a significant portion of both of the games.”

The first-years will see action for the first time Friday night in Bruno’s season opener at home against Siena College (2-0-0). The Saints lost last season’s leading point-scorer James Beeston to graduation but have picked up back-to-back wins over La Salle University (0-1-0) and No. 23 Boston University (2-1-0).

“We’ve never played against Siena,” Maurey said. “We have to be prepared for anything and be ready to play for 90 minutes. They’re going to be good competition, but with the players that we have and the way we have been playing so far, this is a game that we should win.”

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