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Bears start strong on march back to NCAAs

The 2011 season for the men's soccer team was filled with success - the team reached the NCAA Sweet 16 for the second consecutive season after earning a co-Ivy League championship with a 4-1-2 conference record and a 12-5-3 overall mark.

With a 3-1 overall record to date, the Bears, ranked 22nd in the most recent national poll, look to be on track to build on last season's success.

The team opened its season last weekend at the Ocean State Soccer Classic, beating in-state rival University of Rhode Island  1-0 and then going on to shut out Providence College by the same tally. 

This weekend, Bruno hosted its annual Dunkin' Donuts Brown Soccer Classic, defeating Cleveland State University 2-0 Friday before losing a hard-fought battle to Fordham University 1-0. 

Though the team graduated eight seniors last year, including three of last season's top four scorers, eight first-year players will join the returnees.

"All seven of our seniors this year are outstanding leaders with strong personalities," said Head Coach Patrick Laughlin. "They are capable of so much in so many ways and add so much to the team. They push the team ... they know what Brown men's soccer means and really motivate the underclassmen."

The Bears' backline will feature the most experience. All four defensive starters - First Team All-Ivy defender Dylan Remick '13, co-captains Ryan McDuff '13 and Eric Robertson '13, and Alex Markes '15 - return in front of goalie Sam Kernan-Schloss '13. 

"This year, after losing lots of seniors who were attack-minded players, the backline is a big area of responsibility for the team," Remick said. "Maybe we won't be able to score as many goals, so defense is definitely going come into play."

The offense will be bolstered by the return of midfielders Bobby Belair '13 and Thomas McNamara '13, who are both back in action after sustaining injuries last year, along with Ben Maurey '15, Daniel Taylor '15, Voltaire Escalona '14 and Jose Salama '14.

"Missing an entire season due to injury is frustrating both mentally and physically," Belair said. "You have to be able to balance rehabbing yourself back to health and fitness, support and help the team every day."

"Right now, we're focused on improving each game and practice," McDuff said. "We can't allow ourselves to be complacent. This early in the season, it's all about getting better each day. We always like to play a tough nonconference schedule - we have high goals in the Ivy League and national scale, so want to play the best teams we can."

At Stevenson Field on Friday Aug. 31, the Bears earned a 1-0 season opening win over URI after McNamara netted a penalty kick in the 23rd minute. McNamara led the offense with four shots, including three on goal, and Belair followed suit with three shots. 

The tournament continued through Labor Day, when Tommy Arns '15 scored his first career goal in the 42nd minute to lead the Bears to their second 1-0 shutout of the weekend. 

"It was great to see Tommy score the game-winning goal against PC," McDuff said. "He has brought a lot of energy to the squad this year."

Remick was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player, while Markes, Robertson and rookie Tariq Akeel '16 earned All-Tournament Team honors.

After a few days of rest, the team returned to action Friday and earned its third consecutive shutout of the season with a 2-0 victory over Cleveland State. Bruno took the lead a mere ten minutes into the game when Remick scored a goal with an assist from rookie James Lochhead '16. 

The Bears' offense remained aggressive through the second half, peppering the goal with seven shots, but it was not until the last twelve minutes of the game that Robertson knocked in a final goal to ensure Bruno's win. 

"This was another solid shutout win for us and a great all-around team effort," Belair said. "They were a team that liked to possess the ball, but the forwards and midfielders provided enough pressure that allowed the backs to eliminate their dangerous attacks."

But yesterday afternoon, the team suffered a 1-0 loss to Fordham.

"We started the game a bit sloppy," McDuff said. "Sunday games are always tough - we call them 'letdown games.' There is such quick turnaround from Friday to Sunday ... and we were of course tired from an emotional win Friday night."

Fordham took advantage early in the game, as defender Kalle Sotka scored in the tenth minute. McDuff then left the game with an injury, weakening the backline and giving Tim Whalen '16 an opportunity to enter the game. 

Early in the second half, a red card was called on Maurey, putting the Bears down one man for the remainder of the game. 

"It was our first time down this season, but it was good to see that we could deal with adversity," Robertson said. "It was still unfortunate we couldn't get that win."

"The players played really well, especially to outshoot Fordham 18-5," Laughlin said. "We did everything we could to win, and we're happy with that."

Laughlin also called his squad "a team in transition," as first-years begin to earn valuable playing time during the nonconference schedule.  

"Five out of the eight freshmen have played in these first four games. The sophomores and juniors who maybe did not have as much playing time last season are gaining more experience and putting out consistent performances" he said.

 "Every year, our team needs to find out who we are ... and we are just finding that out."


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