New Exciting Challenges in 2009
Mixture of experience and youth
Buffalo, NY - As the 2009 season begins, the University at Buffalo men’s soccer team prepares for many new exciting challenges. The arrival of 14 newcomers coupled with the return of 12 veterans, provides the coaching staff with a mixture of experience and youth, which can be found at each position.
The first position to be settled is goalkeeper. Due to the absence of last season’s top goalkeeper and All-Mid-American Conference Second Team selection Bobby Shuttleworth, the spot between the pipes is up for grabs. In the summer, Shuttleworth decided to forgo his senior year by signing with the New England Revolution of the MLS, the highest level of professional soccer in the United States. This serves as a testament to the highly skilled coaching staff and their ability to develop players for the next level.
Battling for the position will be returnee Nick Fetterman and Welch newcomer Ryan Lewis (Swansea, Wales/Gowerton). Fetterman saw limited action in two contests last season but has great potential. The younger Lewis crosses the pond to join the Bulls, bringing with him proven ability at the international and boys’ school level.
The ultimate success of the position will rest on the shoulders of the Bulls’ newest coaching addition, goalkeeper coach Gavin McInerney.
The key element to the Bulls’ success will continue to rely on their defense. In 20 contests this past season, the Bulls allowed 13 goals to rank second in the MAC. Despite the Bulls returning only one starting back in All-MAC Second Team selection and senior tri-captain Steffen Thoresen, defense will be their strength with a handful of returners and new faces on the backline.
Returnee Alex Mihal and Penn State transfer Casey Derkacz (Hamburg, NY/Penn State) will solidify the back. While showing continual improvement throughout the spring, returnee Tom Beckvermit will bring additional experience to the back in his 12 appearances and five starts in 2008.
Also competing for playing time are Kieron Gradwell (London, England, Cincinnati), Akil Howard (Queens, NY/Shattuck-St. Mary’s) and Matthew Chereson (Erie, PA/Cathedral Prep). Gradwell will provide the Bulls with extensive experience from his time in England, at the University of Cincinnati and the Premier Development League. His pedigree allows him the chance to anchor one of the spots on the backline. Freshmen Howard and Chereson will serve as the future of the defense by developing and gaining experience at the Division I-level throughout the season.
One player who will play off of Marrello is core returnee Mateo Escobar, who is capable of distributing the ball well. As a clever ball handler, Escobar has excellent peripheral vision to move the ball into an opponent’s end.
Returnees Rich Wilson and Juha Kaartoluoma will supply ample experience through their time on the field last season. Wilson was one of four Bulls to play in all 20 regular season games while Kaartoluoma made 16 appearances.
Stony Brook transfer Yannick Prescod (Rochester, NY/Stony Brook) will be in the mix with his combination of quickness and knowledge of the game through his freshman campaign at the Division-I level. Rochester native Ian McGimsey (Brighton, NY/Monroe CC) will look to contribute as the year progresses and is a good prospect for Buffalo. In addition, Carson-Newman transfer Ross Carhart (Pittsburgh, PA/Carson-Newman) brings Division-I experience to the Bulls’ midfield. As a former first-team All-WNY selection, Anthony Johnson (Tonawanda, NY/Buffalo State) has explosive speed and great size as a point player from Division-III Buffalo State. Johnson’s ability to launch the ball on throw-ins will help the Bulls move the ball up field.
As one of the top recruits out of Syracuse, Kyle Rogers (Baldwinsville, NY/C.W. Baker) brings great size at 6-2. Rogers has played at a high standard at both the high school and club level, which will assist in his development. Freshman Risto Latti (Hyuinkaa, Finalnd/Sueitsin Lukio) will naturally fit in at midfield but can also fall into the backline if needed.
The cornerstone of the Bulls’ offense is All-MAC Second Team selection and senior tri-captain Dan Bulley. The two-time leading goal scorer and point leader provides the Bulls direction on the field in terms of his leadership abilities. Like Marrello, Bulley gained great experience from his time in Belgrade, Serbia at the World University Games. Representing Great Britain, he saw action in five contests including two starts against Ukraine and Japan.
Returnee Lucas Bassan can be expected to contribute up front. The tactical ball handler Bassan will be relied on this season following a successful freshman campaign, seeing action in 19 contests.
One of the newcomers the Bulls will need to immediately contribute offensively is North Iowa Community College transfer Michael Unwin (Basingstoke, England/North Iowa CC). Scoring 59 goals in two seasons at North Iowa CC, he provides the Bulls with an offensive threat. His time with the Central Florida Kraze of the Premier Development League this past summer, combined with his standard of play will assist in his transition to the Division I level.
The Bulls welcome one of the top recruits from Rochester to their frontline, Ngwese Ebangwese (Rochester, NY/Pittsford Sutherland). The first team All-Monroe County, All-Greater Rochester, All-State and All-Region selection is capable of contributing with great size and potential. Freshman Maksym Kowal (Mississauga, Ontario/St. Paul Secondary) brings versatility to the Bulls’ lineup in his ability to play forward or in the middle at center or flank. The Bulls also have versatility in at least three midfielders who are capable of playing up front including Kaartoluoma, Wilson and Latti.
Compared to past seasons, the Bulls’ schedule has been upgraded in the strength of the opponents they will face. The high quality of competition the Bulls face in the beginning of the season will prepare them for conference play while developing the team along the way.
To start the season, the Bulls face four tough challenges from Big East members West Virginia and Pittsburgh at the West Virginia University/Nike Classic and Marquette and DePaul the following weekend in a trip Midwest. This opportunity will give Buffalo the chance to measure up early on and see how they compare to these teams.
All in all, the Bulls' main focus rests on the MAC. Northern Illinois, Western Michigan and Bowling Green will create new challenges through coaching changes while Hartwick will create their own challenge due to their continual building. This season, Florida Atlantic will play four of their conference games at home giving them home field advantage in those contests. The MAC is also home to one of the top ranked teams in the nation, the 2007 and 2008 MAC champion University of Akron.
The opponents the Bulls will face in the 2009 season will provide many new exciting challenges for the program. With each challenge comes an exciting opportunity to build and develop into the program the Bulls are destined for.
How quickly the team comes together by playing effective and efficient soccer will determine the success of the squad. The body is large but at the heart of the body are three leaders who will push the team to greatness in tri-captains Bulley, Marrello and Thoresen. In their years together, these young men have grown and matured in their understanding of their roles and what it takes to succeed at the Division I level. As a result, the coaching staff expects the heart to rule the body by providing veteran leadership throughout the season.
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