Back To Work

Aug. 31, 2005

Baltimore, Md. - For the second straight year, Loyola's men's soccer team opens its season against the Princeton Tigers. This time, the Greyhounds travel to central New Jersey for a 7 p.m. match Friday evening. Coming off a sixth straight regular season MAAC Championship, the Greyhounds enter 2005 with great expectations and will be looking for a positive result to start with two road matches over the Labor Day weekend.

"I expect this team to be highly motivated based on the experiences they've had," says Head Coach Mark Mettrick. "The goal is the same as every year - make the national tournament. Hopefully our experiences the past few seasons will help up become a better team."

Led by Coach Mettrick, who has won the regular season MAAC crown each of his five seasons at Evergreen, Loyola will still be relatively young, but more experienced and more mature on the field. Mettrick is 64-24-10 at Loyola after an 11-6-1 season in 2004. He returns leading scorer Rade Kokovic, top goal man Vinnie Piscopo and regional All-America Omar Alfonso, keeping a solid nucleus in tact for another title run.

"Just because you're older, doesn't mean you're better," says Mettrick. "We've learned a lot about ourselves as individuals and as a team. In order to win, we need to focus on the things that have made us successful."

The Greyhounds do lose first-team All-MAAC member Kevin Nash, as well as co-captains Jay Joyce and Jim Gottermeyer to graduation. The return of first-team All-MAAC defender Gabriel Ortega with All-MAAC Rookies Frank Spanos and Ray Hassett, along with 16-game freshman starter Janson Blake; however, give Mettrick plenty of young talent to work with.

Senior Vinnie Piscopo

This year's seniors will include John Dalziel, Mark Donnelly, Nate Lyden, Danny Mulcahy, Brian O'Connor and Piscopo. This group is capable of putting up big offensive numbers with four of the five scoring goals in 2004. Other than Mulcahy, who is a goalkeeper and co-captain this season, this unit poses a constant threat for opposing defenses.

Helping out is a star-studded junior class with Alfonso, Kokovic, Ortega, Julian Cantillo, Justin Chelland, Michael Kolosvary and Danny Wheelan. This unit combined for 33 points and 43 saves (Chelland started eight games in goal) last year and expects a whole lot more in 2005. Wheelan, who missed nine games with injury, and Cantillo, who took a medical redshirt, are back in the mix while Ortega is more settled after a year with his freshmen backfield mates.

Those freshmen are now sophomores and include Blake, Hassett, Spanos, Camilo Correa and Michael Mallia. Now sophomores, Hassett and Spanos and have worked hard to turn their MAAC All-Rookie seasons into first-team all-league seasons while Blake and Correa look to keep the starting jobs they won last year.

"I feel it's important for our sophomores to avoid a second-year slump," says Mettrick. `They can't take for granted the success they had last season."

The sophomore class and others will be pushed by a group of incoming freshmen including local products Ryan Baker and Josh Taylor, West Coast midfielder Micah Hoffman, international attacker Santigie Kamara and 6-2 keeper Bobby Shuttleworth.

This year, it will be important for everyone to contribute with another tough out-of-conference schedule and an ever-improving Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

"Going 9-0 in the MAAC like we did last season sets us up as the team to beat," says Mettrick. "Parity in our conference is much improved. The teams are a lot better than a few years ago and I expect a highly competitive conference race this year."

The Greyhounds feel that this year's mix of young talent and experienced veterans will serve them well, especially in the postseason. With tournament-hungry players and the MAAC Championships at home, Loyola has a lot to look forward to in 2005.

Here is a position-by-position look at the 2005 Loyola College men's soccer team.

Scoring should not be a problem for what looks to be a very deep and potent group of forwards for Loyola. Alfonso, who has 52 points in his first two collegiate seasons, may be the biggest threat with his ability to score each time he touches the ball. After scoring 17 goals as a freshman, Alfonso drew a variety of defensive looks and registered three hard-earned goals last season, including two game-winners for the `Hounds. A year older and more team-oriented, he will team up with Piscopo, who has led Loyola in scoring in two of the last three years, forming a formidable 1-2 punch.

Now a senior, Piscopo scored a team-high seven goals his freshman year and six goals last season, picking up All-MAAC honors both years. Classmates Donnelly and Lyden have also been productive and enter 2005 with 25 career points between them. Sophomores Correa and Hassett join these three seniors and junior at the attack with could be a breakout year for either or both.

"Our forward position has a lot of depth and quality," says Mettrick. "The graduation of Kevin Nash will be a big loss and could change the style of our play. Still, we have some very good scorers and solid finishers who just need to form an effective strike with one another."

Correa started eight games last year, scoring his first collegiate goal at Fairfield. Hassett, whose athleticism was utilized to fill gaps elsewhere, played little attack in 2004, but has the ability to change the pace of a game and should challenge for a starting role up front. Add in Kamara, a Sierra Leon native who played for T.C. Williams High School (Va.), and Mettrick has an abundance of talent to work with.

The midfield, from seniors Dalziel and O'Connor to incoming freshmen Hoffman and Taylor, is filled with gifted athletes and sound skill players. Dalziel has been a starter since his freshman year and anchors a group that includes Kokovic, Spanos and Wheelan.

"We've got a strong group of leaders in the midfield," says Mettrick. "All of our returners are coming off a good year, but need to stay healthy for us to achieve our goals."

Kokovic broke out with five goals and a team-high 19 points last season, becoming Loyola's go-to man on penalty kicks with his power and accuracy. Spanos, who filled in for Wheelan when he suffered a toe injury, scored four goals his first season at Loyola, including two game-winners. Providing offense from the midfield, Dalziel, Kokovic and Spanos combined for 31 points and four game-winning goals.

Wheelan successfully returned for Loyola's last five games and has worked hard to keep his starting job. Cantillo's return to the lineup with Hoffman and Taylor make the unit fairly deep. Hoffman, a native of Seattle, Wash., brings a blue-collar attitude to the squad while Taylor brings championship experience from Archbishop Curley High School and the Baltimore Bays club team, where he captained both last season.

It took a few games for Ortega and Blake to gel in the Loyola backfield last year, but when they did, the defense played at a championship level. This season, Mettrick hopes to find the perfect defensive mix from the start with possibly Wheelan or Kolosvary, Baker or maybe Taylor filling in defensive holes.

Ortega was named a first-team All-MAAC defender and has started all but one game he has played in over his first two seasons. Kolosvary has started 15 games at defense over the same time period while Wheelan has played successfully at both defense and midfield for the Greyhounds.

Last season Blake stepped in and started 16-of-18 games as a freshman. Mettrick hopes Baker is ready to do the same, coming up through strong Olympic Development Programs in the Baltimore-Washington area.

"After losing Chase Franklin, who started at right back last season, we have some questions about who will play where," says Mettrick. "I expect a very healthy competition for playing time and starting spots."

The Greyhounds will have three goalkeepers on the roster this year, returning Mulcahy and Chelland and adding Shuttleworth to replace Greg Peters, who started nine games in his senior season. Chelland will have the most experience, playing in 21 games his first two seasons, but Mulcahy is a senior who also has three starts under belt and is ready to step in.

Mulcahy finished the 2003 season with a 1-1-1 record in the cage, playing valuable minutes, including all 110 minutes against Princeton in Loyola's 1-1 tie with the Tigers. Chelland picked up two shutouts last season to give him seven for his career. He also had 43 saves and expects to be in goal when the season starts in September.

Shuttleworth, a freshman from Buffalo, N.Y., who also hopes to start, brings impressive credentials to the table, including 48 career shutouts at Nichols High School (a school record), captaining his team to a 20-2-1 overall record in 2004 while finishing with a 0.27 goals-against average.

The keys to a successful 2005 will be staying healthy and developing a winning mentality in a league the Greyhounds are favored to win. The schedule will once again be challenging with the season opener at Princeton on September 2nd and non-conference games versus the likes of Syracuse, Akron, American and Penn.

Loyola will also host a pair of tournaments in 2005, beginning with the Loyola Soccer Classic in mid-September. The Greyhounds will also serve as the host institution for the MAAC Championships and could earn themselves an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on their very own field.

With an experienced and more mature side, Loyola can no longer be considered a young team. Its success and disappointments over the past couple of seasons should provide plenty of motivation and necessary experience to take the program to the next level.

"This team has a very diverse background," says Mettrick. "Developing a true team concept and keeping a good team moral will be very important this season."

Loyola has won at least 11 games in each of the past seven seasons and has won the regular season MAAC title in each of Mettrick's five years at the helm. In 2001, the Greyhounds advanced to their 12th NCAA Postseason appearance and moved on to the Round of 16 with a win over local-foe Maryland. This season has expectations of those proportions, but the Greyhounds must take it one game at a time starting this Friday.

For a complete schedule of this season's games, go to 2005 Men's Soccer Schedule.