Men’s Soccer: No Time to be Timid

Donya Forst, Print Editor

Before school bells were ringing for students, the men’s soccer team was lining up on the field shaking off last year’s NCAA first round loss to Montclair State University, which ended 4-2 in penalty kicks. They ended the regular season 13-5-2 and were proud of their many team accomplishments, but saddened by the loss and the end of a hard fought season. However, when the team entered preseason there was only one goal in mind: regaining the conference championship.

The team returns 24 players, including eight starters, and welcomes 11 first years to the roster. Head Coach Charles Edkins has high expectations for his returning players and expects big things from his senior captains, who include defender Rob Wiacek, Defensive Player of the Year goalkeeper Barry Fitzgerald and “spark off the bench” forward Jonathan Grybos.

Wiacek, a key defensive player for the team last season, is currently out with a gallbladder injury, but Edkins is hopeful that he will be ready for conference play in October. “Losing Rob for a bit is going to make a difference and it’s going to impact our program so we have to step up for him and for the team,” Edkins said.

The Cougars also expect big contributions from returning junior defender Kevin Matlon, junior midfielder Parker McArdle, sophomore Honorable Mention All-Conference forward David Malaquias and senior All-Conference, All-Region and First-Team forward Nick vonEgypt who tallied 11 goals and four assists last season.

“[vonEgypt] is going to be critical in putting the ball in the back of the net for us and scoring goals,” Edkins said.

Edkins hopes to achieve balance with players around him. He feels some junior and sophomores now have enough experience to  elevate him and relieve the  pressure.

As for the first year players, Edkins said, “They’re talented. There are a few of them that we think are going to impact and probably see the field this year, and for a couple of them, they are going to need to wait a year or two, but they’re in a successful program. They know what they are coming into, and so far they’ve done a great job of fitting in and being welcomed by our upperclassmen.

First year Brandon Dean was a little nervous coming into preseason. He was worried about being a little undersized for the college level. Dean prepared himself for the worst, but he was relieved to find out about the family aspect of the team. “As a captain, I tried to make the younger guys relax so that they could just play their game and not be timid.”

Grybos willingly welcomed the first years into the family, and he believes it is “important for our freshman to catch up and join us to make us better,” Grybos said.

Once Dean realized this, preseason was simple.  “I could always look to my side and find a reason to keep working harder,” he said,

Edkins is very fond of how the team has connected.

“The passion is definitely there, and that is definitely helpful to us,” Edkins said.

Edkins added that the team’s biggest strength is the depth of the roster. His strong returning defense allows him to put more effort into the attack and be more creative up front. This allows vonEgypt to get into space and make things happen without fear of giving up goals.

“I think we can run some numbers at people. I think we can wear some people down. I think our team speed is strong. It’s just a matter of all of that coming together,” Edkins said.

Last year, the team’s goals against average was less than one goal per game. This is very important to the team because as Edkins puts it, “if we put a zero on the opponent’s scoreboard, we’ve got a great chance of something happening successfully for us.”

Edkins sees King’s College as the biggest in-conference threat this year, but notes seven of the eight Freedom conference teams are legitimate postseason contenders. They include FDU-Florham and rivals Eastern University and Wilkes University. However, outside of conference play, Edkins sees National Tournament Champion Messiah as their number one opponent.

With eight teams and only four postseason spots available, Edkins said, “the better schedule we play, the more prepared we are for October, and no matter what, we will be prepared for what comes in October.”

Edkins, Grybos and Dean are certain that a Conference championship will be in the Cougar’s near future once again. In Cougar history, they’ve been in conference final matches fourteen times and have been involved in 21 out of 23 postseason opportunities.

“There is a great tradition within the men’s soccer program,” Edkins said. “This team has to develop its own personality and make its own mark on the history of this program.”

The Cougars open up their season at home against Ursinus College on Sept. 6 at 7:30 p.m. and Freedom Conference play on Oct. 4 versus Kings College at 7:30 p.m, both at Manglesdorf Field.