Men’s Soccer Preview
Welcome, Wes sports fans, to what promises to be another intense season of Wesleyan men’s soccer!
To those who are new to Wesleyan, men’s soccer has been arguably the most exciting team to follow over the past two years. Both of those seasons resulted in the NESCAC semifinals, and 2009 saw the Cardinals emerge from the ashes of a losing 2008 in epic fashion, as they staged a 15-game undefeated streak to finish at the top the regular season conference standings with a 10-0-4 record. Tragically, the redbirds were subsequently upset by Middlebury in the semifinal, which left them hungry for victory.
Less of a gravy train than 2009, 2010 was chock full of roller coaster drama as the Cards faced stiffer conference competition and posted an 8-8 record composed of 15 one-goal games. However, they showed their grit in the end and made the playoffs by the skin of their beaks with a comeback victory in overtime against Connecticut College on the final day of the regular season, which was followed by another overtime comeback in the quarterfinals over Little Three rival Williams. Sadly, Wesleyan could not maintain the magic, and they slipped 2-1 in the semifinal versus Bowdoin, who went on to claw their way to the league championship match only to fall to Middlebury in penalty kicks.
Similar to 2010, there is no doubt that the 2011 Wesleyan team will face plenty of stark competition from its NESCAC peers, of whom Bowdoin (3), Middlebury (6), Amherst (10), and Williams (24) are ranked among the top 25 Division III teams in the nation according to the Preseason Coaches’ Poll.
However, this year’s Cardinals possess something intangible–experience in close games and high-pressure situations.
“After 15 one-goal games in 2010, this year’s squad is eager to put painful lessons to good use in the upcoming campaign,” head coach Geoff Wheeler said. Indeed, hopefully the trials and tribulations of the past equate to more tallies in the win column this fall.
Wesleyan brings considerable talent of its own to the table. Led by co-captains Zach Dixon (midfield/defense) ’12, and Harrison Lewin (defense) ’12, 15 lettermen return to the Cardinals this fall, eight of whom were consistent starters and three of whom started in at least three games. Watch for more big things from forward Walter Rodriguez ’13, last year’s leading goal-scorer with four goals and second-team all-NESCAC honoree; midfielder Steve Paresi ’12, last year’s leader in points with two goals and eight assists; and Adam Purdy ’13, star goalie who in 2009 earned All-American, first-team all-NESCAC, and NESCAC rookie of the year honors. Bolstering this nucleus is the addition of 10 new freshman and a sophomore transfer from NESCAC rival Tufts, Sam Atwood ’14.
All things considered, men’s soccer appears primed to further the competitive tradition established over the past two seasons. Come down to Jackson Field this Saturday Sept. 10 at 2:30 p.m. for the inaugural game of the season, as the Cardinals look to avenge last year’s semifinal loss to league juggernaut Bowdoin.