August 24 – TOWSON, Md. – The Goucher College men's soccer team will look to a veteran-laden squad, as well as a number of fresh faces, to once again return to the Landmark Conference Tournament in the 2016 season.
The 2015 Gophers fell just shy of their goals as the team amassed a 6-11 mark one season ago. It was a brief step backward for the program as the Gophers had posted back-to-back winning seasons and earned a berth in the conference playoffs in 2014.
"Last season was a big learning experience for us," remarked sixth-year head coach Bryan Laut. "It was the first time in a while that we went back to having a young squad. We took our lumps during the beginning of the season, but I think we really grew as the year went on."
Coach Laut will rely on the experiences that were earned during last year's season, which included a 1-0 victory over eventual conference champion, The University of Scranton.
"I think that we have a great group of upperclassmen that got a chance to be a part of some good learning experiences," remarked Laut of his squad. "We are excited for the impact of these returning players as well as a talented incoming class."
One of the returning pieces that will look to fortify the defensive unit is returning Second-Team All-Landmark Conference goalie, sophomore Daniel Hendry.
"Hendry is such a gifted athlete at his position," remarked Laut of his sophomore net-minder. "The competitive fight that he brings and the aggressiveness and agility in which he plays his position are really going to help him this season."
In 2015, Hendry made all 18 starts in goal for the Gophers. As a freshman he tallied four shutouts, which included wins over conference foes, Juniata, Drew and Scranton. In the win over the Royals, Hendry made seven saves, including three in the final 12 minutes to seal the victory over the Landmark Champions.
This season, Hendry will be asked to take on larger responsibilities in just his second season with the Gophers.
"We are really looking for Daniel to become more of a cerebral player," commented Laut of his goalie. "We want him to become more of a leader on the defensive side of the field, and help set up our organization."
"We expect our defense to be a strength of ours in 2016," stated Laut. "Having players that have been multi-year starters in Pillips, Hardy and Mt. Pleasant are going to help solidify our back four."
In 2015, Phillips not only helped strengthen the defense, but he also led the Gophers in scoring with four goals and eight total points. Hardy also scored a pair of goals on the year and totaled five points, while Mt. Pleasant scored once.
Other players that could see time in the back include freshmen Aiden Devaney and Dan Laurilliard.
"We are looking forward to seeing what our defenders can do in the upcoming year," remarked Laut of his defense. "Not only are these players solid defensively, but we really expect them to be a continued presence on attack as well."
Both Thompson and Phillips appeared in all 18 games for Goucher in 2015, with each picking up an assist along the way.
"Our midfielders need to able to play an up-tempo style," said Laut. "We take a lot of pride in our ability to play an active game, and they will be key parts in that fast-paced style that will make it difficult for other teams."
At the forward position, several returning letterwinners will see time, including senior Ryan Belluch who appeared in 15 games last season. As a junior, Belluch tallied a pair of goals, including posting the game-winning tally against Juniata on October 24.
"We are expecting big things out of Ryan for his senior season," stated Laut. "We are going to ask a lot out of him in order to push the entire group forward throughout the year."
Other upperclassmen who will see time on the attack include senior Andrew Marcantonio and sophomore Konrad Bulanowski. First-year players that could also take the field include Elton Kativhu, Brandon Cohen and Moi Rogers.
"We want our forwards to constantly be pushing the pace and create attacking opportunities on a regular basis," said Laut. "Our forwards will need to be in top condition because we want them being able to not only provide a spark on offense, but to help out defensively as well."
The Gophers, who tallied a winning mark at home last season, open the year with a three-game homestand against Johns Hopkins (Sept. 1), Gwynedd Mercy (Sept. 3) and Penn State-Harrisburg (Sept. 6).
Goucher then closes the month of September with five consecutive road games before hosting a trio of Landmark Conference matchups in early October (Susquehanna, Catholic and Moravian).
"Ultimately, this season is going to be about growth," stated Laut of his goals for 2016. "We play an extremely demanding schedule and this conference has proven to be a grind in every game.
"We want to be able to prepare ourselves early so we can take the steps necessary to be in the thick of the conference tournament hunt at the end of the season."