WILLIAMSTOWN, MA — The 2012 season was a wonderful journey for the Williams College men's soccer team as it made its fifth trip to the NCAA Final 4 only to lose 3-2 to Ohio Northern in their semifinal game.
While there were only four seniors on the team, it was one of the strongest senior classes in recent years. Two NSCAA All Americas — Peter Christman and Matt Ratajczak — and one D3soccer.com All America, goalkeeper Than Finan, have departed. The other senior loss to graduation was Patrick Ebobisse who was one of the team's most productive attacking threats with 4 goals and 7 assists to place second on the team in scoring with fifteen points.
Despite the graduation of those four players, the 2013 Ephs are confident they can once again compete for the NESCAC championship. Head coach Mike Russo ( 415-103-58, .771 win pct.) returns for his 35th season at the head of the program and is enthusiastic about his squad.
|Dan Lima '14|
"We have a strong nucleus of players returning who have a lot of playing experience," Russo said. "Our team goal is to win the NESCAC Tournament and get an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament. We are realistic enough to know that getting back to the Final 4 will be an extremely difficult task but we are hoping that we continue to be a contender for doing so."
Senior goalkeeper and co-captain, Peter Morrell, returns and should be one of the best in that position in New England. Junior Andrew Bravo and freshman Christian Alcorn will battle it out with Morrell for the starting position. Morrell played in eight games in 2012, starting six, and finished with a sparkling 0.66 goals against average and .871 save percentage while going 7-0 for the 16-2-4 Ephs.
Senior co-captain, Dan Lima will anchor the defense from his central defender position with a lot of support from junior Luke Pierce, sophomore Troy Ritter, and two incoming first years, Brandon Dory and T.L. Guest. Junior Andres Burbank-Crump can play a central role but will also be looked at as wing back, a position he excelled at in his freshman year. Other wide backs who are expected to make big contributions are senior Josh Miller-Lewis and the indefatigable pair of juniors, Chris Conder and Chris Seitz as well as sophomore Marcus Christian.
The midfield engine room should again be strong led by juniors Matt Muralles, a highly skilled performers who will be challenged for starting positions by juniors Tim Marchese and Nathan Miller and sophomore Geoff Danilack. Noah Grumann had an excellent first year as he started in the holding midfield position and will be looked upon again to provide leadership in that part of the field. The team will miss the skill and experience of senior Noah Cadet and junior Michael Madding who will miss the year with injuries. Some newcomers will be given a look in the midfield and they are: J.C. Bahr de-Stefano, Patrick Gordon, Kevin Mercadante, and Malcolm Moutenot.
The team will look to better the 36 goals scored in 2012 with sophomore forward and leading scorer Mohammed Rashid (6 goals and 7 assists) and senior striker User Kushaina (6 goals and 1 assist) both returning. Senior striker Matt Kastner along with junior Zach Grady and sophomore Jonathan Westling will be counted on to improve their goal scoring productivity as well.
"In goal we return co-captain, Peter Morrell who should be one of the best goalkeepers in the region," Russo said. "Our backline should be strong as co-captain, Dan Lima returns to anchor it. We return depth to the midfield despite losing Michael Madding and Noah Cadet to injury. We return two of our top leading scorers in User Kushaina and Mohammed Rashid and hopefully several others will step it up to support their offensive prowess."
Last season the Ephs schedule was rated the most difficult in the country by one rating source and this year's will be as difficult with a strong Skidmore team replacing Utica in a non-league match along with the usual extremely competitive NESCAC schedule. The coaching staff is looking forward to the challenge of maintaining the program's status as one of the strongest in the region and the country and is eagerly awaiting the August start date.
"The NESCAC will be very tough again this year with the usual powers and much improved Connecticut College and Tufts to contend with," Russo noted.
Williams opens its season Saturday at conference rival Colby with a 1:30 p.m. start.