Class Mix Key for Men's Soccer in 2016
EASTON, Pa. -- Head coach Dennis Bohn of the Lafayette men's soccer program has a very different team entering the 2016 season than he did ending the 2015 season last fall. The Leopards graduated five starters, including their two top forward threats in Eric West and Greg Biggiani. Senior captain Ryan Egan understands that means a next-man up mindset must be installed and believes this year's team has the talent to do just that.
"We were expecting new guys to have to step up and we're excited about that," Egan said. "It's a lot of young energy and talent that mixes well with the older guys, so we're excited to see what happens. It comes down to execution. Last year, we had our chances, but when it comes down to it, we just didn't put the ball in the back of the net. We're really working hard on the final third, the final ball and the final shot to get that taken care of."
Below is a position-by-position preview of the 2016 edition of Lafayette men's soccer.
Following the graduation of West and Biggiani, up front will be a new look for the Leopards in 2016 as a number of guys will get their chance to earn their spot with productivity in the attacking third. Returning options include sophomore Josh Kruczek and Grant Burg, who each posted a goal in their rookie seasons last fall.
Additionally, depending on Bohn's choice of formation in a given contest, senior Ben Marks will get an opportunity to be a key part of the attack as well. Marks tallied a goal and three assists last season and remains one of the team's most skillful players on the ball.
Freshman Evan Vare has shown why he was so heavily recruited, impressing in the preseason and likely earning himself a starting spot in Friday's opener. Vare was the Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year this past season at Central Bucks East high school, where le led the team to a 26-0 record and the Class AAA state championship. The Jamison, Pa. native totaled 42 goals and 13 assists last season, including one of each in the 2-0 win over Seneca Valley in the state final.
Egan leads a mix of midfielders from all four classes into 2016 that will likely give a lot of different players chances to earn a spot. The senior was the Leopards' leading scorer last season with a pair of goals to go along with one assist on the year, but as a three-year starter, he's the clear leader of not only this group, but this team as a whole.
"I know I said it last year, but it still rings true that Ryan's our engine," Bohn said. "We probably expect some more stats this year from him, but his work rate and toughness are unmatched and his technical ability is getting better. He hasn't received the accolades in his first three years, but I expect him to be a dominant force in every one of our games this year."
Joining Egan as a veteran midfielder is Marks who, although he'll see some time in the attack, will spend most of his minutes on the wing in the midfield. Additional returners in this group include seniors Dante Piccolo and Andrew Gonzalez, and sophomore Ryan Peslis.
"Dante and Andrew, who will compete for time, are just great leaders and great role models who lead by example," Bohn added. "We have very good chemistry in terms of upperclassmen leadership and younger, enthusiastic talent willing to listen and do whatever the older guys say. The fact that the older guys are giving them the right direction is key and has been really positive so far."
Freshmen Adam Bramson and Jamie Hill will see significant time in the middle for the Leopards this season as part of that young, enthusiastic talent. Bramson was a First-Team All-League player at Milton Academy in Dover, Mass. each of his final two seasons, while Hill, a native of Crowthorne, Berkshire, England, played with Portsmouth FC, Reading FC and Stoke City FC throughout his development.
Bohn's teams throughout the years have been built from the back forward and this year is no exception as the defensive group is the clear strength of this team. All-League Second-Team selection Christian Moyse returns for his third year as a starting center back alongside a second-year starter in sophomore Joe DeStefano. Those two teaming up with juniors Brad Seeber and Brian Ehrlich in goal will be tough for teams to break down this fall.
"The continuity and experience is key in the back," Bohn said. "The relationships and communication that comes from those three positions to everyone else on the field is ultimately a huge piece of this soccer team. Having those guys back in those specific positions and them being three of our better players is something we're going to have to rely heavily on."
Senior outside back Campbell Weyland and sophomore Josh Koval played in all but one game a year ago and further that continuity to the sidelines. That being said, Bohn believes there will be some freshmen competing for those outside spots, including Diego Gomera-Tavarez, a three-year starter at Paramus Catholic in Clifton, N.J.
Juniors Brad Seeber and Brian Ehrlich bring quality playing experience into the 2016 season with Seeber expected to start in Friday's opener. As a sophomore, Seeber was excellent despite missing five games due to injury. He carried a 0.86 goals-against average, good enough for third in the final Patriot League rankings.
"Brad is athletic, long, quick and is good with his distribution," Bohn said. "He's maturing as a leader and, in our opinion, should be one of the top goalies in the league this year."
Ehrlich was solid as well in five games last season, filling in during Seeber's injury. Despite his 0-4-1 mark, he held a 0.94 goals-against average and made 33 saves in 477:20 of action for a .868 save percentage.
Lafayette opens its 2016 campaign on Friday evening with a home contest against Saint Francis-Brooklyn at 6 p.m. Patriot League play is slated to begin on Sept. 24 in Easton against Loyola at 1 p.m. The Leopards will also have the fortune of hosting the annual rivalry match with Lehigh at Oaks this season, scheduled for Oct. 26 at 7 p.m.
"I honestly can't pick a favorite in the league this year," Bohn concluded. "A lot of the better teams graduated some all-conference and key players. Between Lafayette and Loyola, we had maybe two of the best recruiting classes in the conference and, although both of us were near the bottom last year, I think we both have some potential. I don't think there's anyone that we're fearful of, but I don't think there's anyone we'll be able to sleep on either. `The Parity League' will be another crazy, topsy-turvy track meet, so we'll see who's standing at the end."
The top six teams in the final regular-season standings will compete in the Patriot League Tournament, beginning with the quarterfinal round on Nov. 8 at the site of the higher seed. The tournament's top seed will host the semifinals on Nov. 11 and the championship on Nov. 13.