The men’s soccer team begins their season on Tuesday, Sept. 6 with high hopes following a loss in the NESCAC Tournament Finals a year ago. Coming off an 8-8-2 season, the team has many contributing players returning, but will also miss six players that graduated last spring. Gone are 2015 captains Ben Toulotte and Hans Erickson, as well as Jacob Glickman, Max Jones, Chris Kafina, and Brandon Sousa. The team has elected three-year returning starters Charlie Gruner ’17 and Danny Rubenstein ’17 as captains this season, and will be joined by fellow seniors Dylan Hoy, Eric Jasinksi, and Jack Katkavich.
A year ago, the team fell to No. 1 seed and eventual national championship Amherst in the NESCAC Tournament Championship. This year, led by Head Coach Geoff Wheeler, who is entering his 18th season at the helm of Cardinal soccer, the team hopes to build on the success from a season ago. The team’s schedule begins with three straight road games and eight in total, while they will also play seven games in Middletown. NESCAC play commences on Sept. 17, with the Cardinals hosting the Bowdoin Polar Bears.
In addition to the six seniors, this year’s squad consists of eight juniors, six sophomores, and seven first-year players. Adam Cowie-Haskell ’18 leads the charge on offense after being named Second Team All-NESCAC a year ago and NESCAC Rookie of the Year in 2014. Cowie-Haskell ranked second on the team in both goals and points last year with five goals and ten points. Katkavich returns to net, after registering a 7-6 record with four shutouts last season. In the NESCAC, Katkavich ranked fifth in saves (61), as well as save percentage (.836), and goals-against average (0.85).
Katkavich reflected on his three years of Wesleyan soccer so far, and what he has taken away from it.
“I have learned that you must play a full 90-minute game if you want to win in the NESCAC,” said Katkavich. “You cannot turn off mentally for one moment. Communication and effort go a long way into maintaining focus throughout the game. More specifically, as a goalie, you may only be called upon once or twice in a game to make a play.”
The goalie also stated the team’s goals for the the 2016 season and setting a high but attainable bar.
“First, we want to get an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament,” Katkavich said. “Second, we want to earn a home playoff game in the NESCAC tournament. Third, we want to score seven more goals on free kicks than we allow, and we want to win over 10 games.”
Regarding his own personal goals and what he is looking forward to most about the season, Katkavich shared his thoughts.
“As a goalie, my main goal is to give my team a chance to win,” he said. “I am looking forward to one last season with the team. These four years go by quickly and this will be the last competitive season I play for the rest of my life. I am excited for the highs and lows that come with playing a NESCAC season, but above all else I am excited for the opportunity to play alongside my teammates and friends every day.”
The Argus also caught up with Gruner, who returns for his senior season as a captain and three-time member of the All-NESCAC First Team. Gruner reflected on the leadership for this year’s squad.
“It’s an honor to be named a captain, but our whole senior class has done an excellent job stepping up and being leaders of this program,” Gruner said. “However, for us to be successful, everyone on the team is going to need to show leadership.”
In terms of his outlook on the team’s season, Gruner stated similar views to Katkavich.
“The past two national champions have come from the NESCAC, so it’s obviously a very competitive league,” he said. “However, we are confident we can beat anyone in the country. With players and coaching staff that we have, we can beat anyone in the country.”
Led by the senior class, the team will look to build upon a disappointing finish to a promising season last year. With Gruner, Katkavich, and the rest of the seniors in charge, the pieces are in place to do so.