WILLIAMSTOWN, MA -- A 2-1 loss to Bowdoin in the NESCAC Quarterfinals ended the 2014 Williams men's soccer season and the long and successful coaching career of the retiring Mike Russo. The Ephs finished 8-6-2 overall and 6-3-1 in NESCAC play last fall.
The Ephs lost nine players to graduation, including First Team All-NESCAC forward Zach Grady (10g, 1a) and seasoned midfielder Matt Muralles (3g, 1a). Also lost to graduation were several key defenders: Andres Burbank-Crump, Luke Pierce, Chris Conder, and Chris Seitz (who also saw time in the midfield).
Playing time will be available in the midfield this fall with the graduation of Michael Madding and Nathan Miller.
Erin Sullivan '96 takes over the reins of the Eph team from Mike Russo. Sullivan played goalie for Russo at Williams.
Sullivan returns to the Purple Valley after a successful 15-year stint at Western New England University, where he compiled an overall record of 207-96-37 (.663). He was the Commonwealth Coast Conference Coach of the Year three times (2007, 2009, 2011) and the Great Northeast Athletic Conference Coach of the Year four times (2001, 2004, 2005, 2006). In 2005 Sullivan was named the National Soccer Coaches Association of America New England Region Coach of the Year and a Finalist for National Coach of the Year.
Sullivan was the Eph goalie in 1995 when Williams defeated Methodist University 2-1 on the Ephs' Cole Field to win the NCAA DIII Championship.
Sullivan's staff will feature holdovers Derek Cece and Jeff Huffman, while Tom Crabill comes on board after coaching at perennial northeast powerhouse St. Lawrence.
Fortunately for Sullivan, the Ephs will have plenty of returning talent and they are expecting a strong incoming class of 12 freshmen candidates.
Perhaps the biggest bright spot for the Ephs will be the return of Mohammed Rashid, who sustained a season-ending injury in the first game last season. In 2012, Rashid scored six goals and added seven assists and was named NESCAC Rookie of the Year as the Ephs made a run to the Final Four.
The following season, Rashid scored five goals and registered five assists to help lead the Ephs to a second consecutive Final Four. A year ago the Ephs missed Rashid's offensive creativity and thus became more or less one-dimensional with Zach Grady (10 goals) providing most of the scoring. After a successful summer season with the Real Boston Rams of the Premier Development League Rashid will return as one of the Ephs' top threats up front and/or in the midfield.
"We have the potential to be a very dynamic attacking team and score goals in several different ways which will be important following a low offensive output last fall," stated Sullivan. "We believe there are some very capable playmakers and goal-scorers on this squad, but as always, it will come down to desire, execution, and precision in front of goal."
The Ephs did receive some disappointing news this off-season. Senior Jonathan Westling and junior Patrick Gordon will miss the 2015 season due to injuries. Both have played meaningful roles for the Ephs in the past.
The Eph captains for the 2015 campaign are defender Geoff Danilack '16 and midfielder Noah Grumman '16. Danilack garnered First Team All-NESCAC honors in 2014 in addition to being named to the NSCAA All-New England Team. Grumman has started 47 games in his Williams career, including 10 last season.
|Christian Alcorn '17|
"Geoff and Noah each bring considerable experience, intelligence, and leadership to the role of captain," Sullivan commented. "Both have been standout performers on the field and quintessential scholar-athletes here at Williams. We will look to them to continue to set a positive tone for a hard-working, unified, and resilient squad and we look forward to working with them to cultivate and harness our full potential."
"This is a seminal time in Williams soccer history and we're very excited to write a new chapter in 2015," Sullivan said. "Our coaches and players are all mindful of the standard of excellence that is demanded within our program and we embrace the challenge of continuing that tradition of success. We all come into this season with something to prove. There will certainly be challenges and obstacles along the way, but I believe if we stay focused on our collective goals and avoid distractions off the field, there is great reason for optimism about the 2015 season."
Despite the list of significant losses to graduation and injury, the Ephs are returning nine players that played major minutes last season, including seven that started at least seven games. J.C. Bahr de Stefano '17 (3g, 1a) brings experience to the midfield, where David Madding '18 will likely join him.
Tobias Muellers '18, Brandon Dory '17, and T.L. Guest '17 are expected to compete for playing time alongside Danilack on what will be an experienced backline. Mark Sisco-Tolomeo '18 played significant minutes at the target striker position in 2014 and will be counted on to provide offensive production. Christian Alcorn '17 and Bobby Schneiderman '18 both saw time in between the posts last year, and will battle for the starting position.
|Malcolm Moutenot '17|
"Our coaching staff is excited about the quality and mentality of our returning players," Sullivan said. "We have some very motivated individuals that put in a great offseason and are eager for the opportunity to contribute to a successful season in 2015."
The 12 freshmen on the pre-season roster will look to contribute and provide depth for the Williams squad.
The Ephs will look for contributions from a strong incoming class of 12 that includes Harrison Fyke (Fort Erie, Ontario), Scott Macdonald (Owings Mills, MD), Greg Andreou (Baltimore, MD), Connor Capitolo (Kentfield, CA) and several other talented first-years expected to vie for playing time.
"There is no question we need to be a better defensive team this year from front to back and limit our opponents' chances," Sullivan noted. 'We will look to make noticeable improvement in this area beginning with a stronger mentality and work ethic in training and better individual defending and pursuit."
In addition to the always-tough NESCAC schedule, which includes defending NCAA DIII champion Tufts, Williams will face five challenging non-conference opponents. In the 2015 season opener Sullivan's Ephs will lineup against SUNY Oneonta, a Final Four team in 2014. SUNY Oneonta is ranked fourth nationally in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) pre-season poll. The Ephs will also tangle with 2014 NEWMAC champion Babson, Skidmore, RPI, and Endicott.
"Our coaches and players are eager to attack our highly competitive 2015 schedule, stated Sullivan. "We know from experience the type of commitment, detailed preparation, and execution required to be successful over the course of not only the NESCAC schedule, but the strong non-conference schedule we seek out each and every year."
"The fact that two of last year's final four teams and some of the top programs in New England and the nation are coming to Cole field presents a fantastic opportunity for our 2015 squad to test itself against the perennial powers of college soccer," Sullivan said.
Sullivan's first look at his new team under game conditions will come on September 5th on Cole Field at 1:00 p.m. when the Ephs play in the annual Alumni Game. The very next day Sullivan's Ephs will head north to Middlebury, VT, where they will play the University of Montreal in a scrimmage.
The Ephs open the 2015 campaign with a home encounter versus highly regarded SUNY Oneonta on Cole Field at 4:00 p.m. on September 9th.