Young Men's Soccer Squad Hopes to Take Next Step in 2013

Young Men's Soccer Squad Hopes to Take Next Step in 2013

2013 MEN'S SOCCER PREVIEW

TOWSON, Md. – For a large portion of the 2012 season, the Goucher men's soccer team fielded a starting lineup that included 10 freshmen and sophomores.

The youthfulness showed at times, with the Gophers struggling to a 5-10-1 final record. Underclassmen will continue to play a key role in determining the fortunes of the 2013 campaign, as juniors and seniors make up just five of the 29-man roster, but head coach Bryan Laut believes that the experience gained last year will rub off on his team this fall.

"We were young last year, but we had a lot of chances to learn and grow," Laut said. "We're bringing almost everybody back, and we're bringing in a really good group of freshmen that are going to have a big impact right away. I think we have more talent than we've had in the past, which is really important and probably the biggest step in improving the overall quality of the program."

Junior Nate Margolis is one of the key returners on the offensive end. His 19 points and nine assists both led the team, with the nine helpers also tops in the Landmark Conference as a whole. Sophomore Parker Bay, whose seven goals led the team and ranked him fourth in the conference, will also be back for the Gophers, and Laut expects an immediate impact out of freshman Kevin Tonkovich as well.

"We're pretty confident that when we get fully healthy up top that we're going to be able to score goals," Laut said. "I expect us to be a pretty dangerous attacking team."

Other returning starters include George El-Khoury (three goals, three assists in 2012) and Brandon Weiner (two goals, two assists).

The youth movement will continue to be evident on the defensive end, but Laut hopes that his underclassmen defenders will quickly adapt to the college level.

"We're going to be young in the back," he said. "But I also think we're going to be more athletic and more disciplined than we've been in the past. Hopefully by the time we roll into league play, and these guys have had five or six games under their belts, they will be confident about what they need to do to be successful at this level."

The midfield is expected to be one of the strengths of the squad, with Laut pointing to the versatility of junior Lashaw Salta and freshman Tate Becker as one of the causes for optimism.

"Having Tate and Lashaw in the middle of the field is going to give us attacking guys that we haven't had in the past in those positions," the fourth-year coach said. "They can play at both ends of the field and make things happen."

The Gophers will have several options in goal this season, with sophomores Scott Witte and Ethan DeBandi joined by newcomers Nicholas Stolarz and Michael Layer.

"Our goaltending competition is too close to call right now," Laut said. "It's just going to be a matter of one of them hopefully getting a hot hand and us being able to ride that. The nice thing about it is that no matter who's out there, we feel comfortable with our goalkeeping situation."

Goucher kicks off its 2013 campaign Friday afternoon with a 4:30 p.m. tilt at Hood, while the Gophers' home opener will be at 1 p.m. Sunday against Shenandoah. After a 2-5 finish in the challenging Landmark Conference last season, with two teams advancing to the final 16 of the Division III national tournament, Laut believes his team is capable of bigger things this year.

"If we play to our maximum potential, I think we have the ability to be a playoff team in our league," he said. "We're in a really difficult league. If you can compete in the Landmark, you can compete with almost anyone in the country. I think we have the ability to turn around a couple of those losses from last year. That's what we're shooting for."

The full men's soccer schedule is available here, while the complete roster for 2013 can be viewed here.