Bears struggle in first game, fall to Friars

Assistant Sports Editor
Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Coming off of an impressive 2010 season that lasted until the third round of the NCAA Tournament, the No. 11 men’s soccer team (1-1-0) stumbled out of the gate with a loss to Providence College (3-1-0) Friday, falling to the Friars 1-0 at the Ocean State Soccer Classic. But even with a squad depleted by injuries, the team bounced back Monday, defeating Bryant University (0-2-0) 3-0.

“In the first game, I think some of the seniors put pressure on themselves to perform since we did have some guys who were important to us leave last season and because we’ve had some injuries,” said co-captain Ryan McDuff ’13. “In the second game, it was a very relaxed atmosphere, and guys were talking about just going out and having fun rather than putting pressure on themselves to win.”

The Bears made a remarkable run last season, earning their 25th appearance in the NCAA Tournament and upsetting the University of Connecticut on their way to the Sweet 16. Eight starters and eight seniors returned this year for Head Coach Patrick Laughlin’s second campaign.

Nonetheless, Bruno entered the new season with a heavy burden to bear — an 11th place ranking in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America preseason poll. After a dramatic run, teams often find themselves with an inflated ranking based on their performance the previous year, and it can often be difficult for a squad to meet the expectations that come with the bloated standing.

“Preseason rankings are based on a team that no longer exists,” Laughlin said. “That team that they have ranked is a team from last year. We try not to worry about that, and the priority is to be sure that we are improving every game.”

On Monday, the Bears demonstrated the current team’s balanced offensive attack, as three different Bears — Sean Rosa ‘12.5, T.J. Popolizio ’12 and Thomas McNamara ’13 — scored in the victory over the Bulldogs. Bruno returns five of its six top scorers, including Rosa, winner of last season’s Heinz Kubel Award for the team’s best offensive player.

Though the team features a number of scoring threats, Laughlin said he prides himself on building a fortified backfield. Last season, the defense allowed only one goal in its first nine games. The players returning to the back line include First Team All-Ivy defender Dylan Remick ’13, as well as Eric Robertson ’13 and McDuff, all of whom played in every game last season without missing a start.

“If you’re not giving away goals or making chances for the other team, you are going to be in a good place to compete in games,” Laughlin said. “That was one of our strengths, and that has been one of the men’s soccer program’s greatest strengths for a long time.”

One developing story as the squad returned from the offseason was the battle for the starting goaltending position. The team said goodbye to First Team All-Ivy goalkeeper Paul Grandstrand ’11, who set a single-season school record with 11 shutouts. Four players have been competing for the starting spot, but in the Bears’ first two games, Laughlin gave the green light to newcomer Alex Carr ’15, a former member of the New Zealand Under-20 national program.

“He’s a very experienced player,” Laughlin said. “Is he the permanent goalkeeper? I don’t know. We have four guys in there, and they’re all really competitive, so it’s a position that we are constantly evaluating and looking at.”

The Bears return to action at home this week as they host the Brown Soccer Classic, facing George Mason (3-2-0) Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Temple University (1-0-0) Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Laughlin said he hopes there will be an impressive turnout as the Bears begin their quest for an Ivy League title and a spot in the NCAA tournament.

“The students give us energy,” he said. “When they are at the games and cheering, being loud and encouraging us, it really makes a difference. With that kind of home field advantage, Stevenson Field becomes a difficult place to play, and that’s the 12th man that we need.”


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