Aug. 21, 2006
Baltimore, Md. - The 2006 Loyola College men's soccer season kicks off this weekend at the Towson Invitational. The Greyhounds will take on Delaware in the season opener this Friday at 2 p.m. and then play host Towson on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. Both games will be played at Towson Center Field on the campus of Towson University.
The Greyhounds enter their 64th season as a program with 13 new faces, but return All-America forward Omar Alfonso, who sat out last season with a medical redshirt. Head Coach Mark Mettrick, who spent the offseason building around a solid nucleus of upperclassmen, returns five seniors, including three 2005 All-MAAC selections.
Senior Danny Wheelan returns for his second season as team captain while regional All-American defender Gabriel Ortega and goalkeeper Justin Chelland return to lead their respective units as four-year starters at Loyola. Senior Rade Kokovic, a first-team All-MAAC honoree in 2005, sets up the offense from the midfield while seniors Julian Cantillo and Michael Kolosvary can play with Ortega in the backfield or move up to the midfield with Kokovic. The Greyhounds also add graduate student Buster Wiand, who led Lafayette to a pair of College Cups and brings captain experience to Loyola for his final season of eligibility.
The junior class, which now adds Alfonso after his redshirt, may be short on numbers, but not on talent. Both Janson Blake and Camilo Correa possess valuable game experience after being inserted into the starting lineup as freshmen in 2004. All three juniors are capable of a huge 2006 season and will be highly instrumental in the development of the team.
Sophomores Phil Brierley and Josh Taylor were inserted into the starting backfield as freshmen and immediately proved they belonged. The pair earned MAAC All-Rookie distinction in their first season of college soccer and are expected to continue their development as sophomores. Ziggy Kamara is also back after playing 11 games his freshman season while walk-on sophomore Anthony Amato earned a roster spot with a solid spring and will be an asset in the midfield.
Mettrick's recruiting class includes two goalkeepers, two forwards, four midfielders and four defenders. Freshman Milos Kocic is a transfer from St. John's who has four years of eligibility after a freshman redshirt with the Red Storm. P.J. Tucker, meanwhile, is a 6-2 goalkeeper from Woodstown, N.J.
The freshmen strikers include Jamie Darvill from London, England and John Loaiza from Colombia, South America. Adding depth to the midfield will be Joey Dussault from Arlington, Texas, Greg Howard from Bowie, Md., and Jonathan Navas from Bloomfield, N.Y. Mettrick's newest defenders include Michael Cacace from Bowie, Maryland, Mike McTigue from Tuckahoe, N.Y., Tennant McVea from Belfast, North Ireland, Nathan Witte of Carrollton, Texas and Maryland product Jonathan Sabatini.
The Greyhounds will undoubtedly feel some growing pains as Coach Mettrick finds the right lineup and right mix of veteran experience and talented youth. A very tough non-conference schedule that begins this weekend and includes a match at defending NCAA Champion Maryland and a tournament at Old Dominion will provide healthy challenges for the team and prepare them for a run at the program's 11th MAAC title. With only three home weekends and 12 of the team's 18 games on the road, Coach Mettrick knows winning won't be easy. Still, the goal remains uncompromised, and with five regular season MAAC Championships in six years at Loyola, the bar has been set.
Friday's game with Delaware will be the 14th meeting between the two programs. Loyola leads the all-time series, 10-2-1 and has won its last six matches with the Blue Hens. Sunday's match against Towson will be the 54th meeting between the Charles Street foes. The Tigers escaped with a 1-0 win at Loyola last season, but the Greyhounds hold the series edge, 34-15-4.