For the last two years the Mount St. Mary's men's soccer team has had success in Northeast Conference (NEC) play. In 2008, the Mount made the NEC Tournament and advanced to the NEC Championship Game before missing the postseason by one point last season. In 2010, the men's soccer team is hungry to get back into the NEC Tournament and fight for the NEC Championship again.
"We want to be successful in the Northeast Conference and to make it back to the NEC Championship Game," said head coach Rob Ryerson, who is in his 11th season in Emmitsburg. "We had players that got a taste of that a couple of year ago and anything can happen when you get to that championship game... you just have to get there."
Seniors Chris Davis (Townsville, Australia/Kirwan State), Eric Detzel (York, Pa./Central York), Ty Fenstermacher (Macungie, Pa./Emmaus) and Scott Phinith (Gaithersburg, Md./Magruder), and juniors Ian Hendrie (Potomac, Md./St. Andrews Episcopal School) and Chris Wheeler (Newcastle, Australia/St. Francis Xavier) each started the championship game while senior Will Thomas (Mount Rainer, Md./The Heights) and junior Kyle Patrick (Hershey, Pa./Hershey) saw time off the bench in 2008. These eight players have been 10-8-1 in league play in the last two years. They have been part of the championship run two years ago and the agony of barely missing the tournament last season. These players are driven to get back and that will be the driving force for the 2010 season.
"We have six players that started that game and they are committed to get back there," said Ryerson. "Our goal is to play strong throughout the NEC season and get one of those four spots and try to get to that championship game."
One of the key to the Mountaineers' success in the last two years has been there play at Waldron Family Stadium. The squad has been 8-8 at home in the last two seasons, including 6-4 in league play. Mount St. Mary's will have nine home games this season and Ryerson believes that the key to a successful season lies with protecting your home pitch.
"I am excited that we have nine home games this year," said Ryerson. "It is crucial that you do well in your home games in conference so having more home games under our belt will make us more comfortable when it comes to the conference games. The teams that we will play in non-conference will help us prepare for a tough conference schedule."
With experience players returning and hosting more matches in the comforts of Waldron Family Stadium, Ryerson believes that he has assembled the players necessary to make a run at the NEC Tournament.
In goal, Ryerson will look for Davis, the senior captain, to once again be the leader in between the pipes. Davis posted 53 saves, a 1.76 goals against average and a .646 saves percentage in 2009. Davis ranks fifth in program history in career minutes played (4565) and shutouts (12) while also ranking fourth in minutes played and fourth in saves (185) in Mount Division I history.
Along with Davis, junior Peter Steve (Dallas, Pa./Dallas) has shown well and will fight for playing time in goal. The junior is a transfer from Cincinnati and will have three years of eligibility left after not playing in any competition in his two years with the Bearcats.
"We are very strong in goal and have two very capable keepers," said Ryerson. "We have two players competing for the No. 1 spot and that competition is good because it will push both goalkeepers to be the best that they can be. I know that I can count on either goalkeeper at anytime."
Returning to the defense will be Hendrie and sophomores Alex Ockford (Yardley, Pa./Pennsbury), Will Jagger (Crowsborough, England/Turnbridge Wells Boys Grammar School) and Nick Chiarella (Toms River, N.J./Monsignor Donovan). Last season, Hendrie saw a lot of time in the midfield and scored three times for six points, but will return to defense where he helped the team advance to the NEC Championship Game as a freshman.
"Ian had a very comfortable season in his freshman year," said the coach. "Last year we moved him to forward, but to maximize his abilities and to strengthen our team we need to play him in the back."
Alex Ockford played in 15 games including eight starts as a freshman. The sophomore gained some exposure over the summer by playing in the U-19 Boy's James P. McGuire Cup Championship game. Jagger appeared in 15 contests including 10 starts last season and registered one assist in his first season in Emmitsburg while Chiarella appeared in two games last year.
Added to the mix of players fighting for playing time in the defense will be sophomore Koudzo Komlan (Lome, Togo/Upper Darby [Pa.]), and freshmen Connor Waraksa (Media, Pa./Strath Haven) and Patrick Wheeler (Newcastle, Australia/St. Francis Xavier).
With the combination of Alex, Will, Ian and Nick, I feel really confident that we will be strong in our defense," said Ryerson. "I also feel that the addition of Connor, Koudzo and Patrick will add to the competition for the starting spots."
The midfield is loaded with senior experience led by All-NEC second-team performer Detzel. The senior co-captain ranked second on the team with four goals and one assist for nine points in 2009. Detzel sits in seventh place in goals (14), eighth in points (37) and ninth in assists (9) on the program's Division I career lists.
"I expect Eric to be a player that leads by example," said Ryerson. "He will be leader in the midfield, will provide good quality along with helping with set offensive pieces."
In addition to Detzel, Fenstermacher and Phinith also return to the midfield after starting the majority of last season. Fenstermacher appeared in all 17 games including 12 starts and found the twine once on 13 shots. Phinith, who stands 10th for assists (10) for his career in Mount Division I history, ranked fourth on the squad with one goal and five assists for seven points. Thomas has been one of the first players off the bench in his first two seasons at the Mount and has gained valuable experience in the midfield. The senior appeared in 17 games including three starts as a junior and registered a goal and an assist for three points on 12 shots.
Freshmen Zoncher Dennis (Abijam, Ivory Coast/Strath Haven [Pa.]), Mike Molloy (Baltimore, Md./Calvert Hall) and Jimmy Ockford (Yardley, Pa./Pennsbury) will push these four experienced midfielders for playing time.
"I think midfield will be one of our strengths," said Ryerson. "We return three starters in Eric, Tyler and Scott along with the addition of Zoncher, Mike and Jimmy I feel that our midfield will be very strong."
In the front, the attention will be on Chris Wheeler to start
the year. The junior has led the team in scoring in each of his
first two seasons, including eight goals and one assist for 17
points to earn an All-NEC first-team selection last year. Wheeler
comes into his third season in Emmitsburg ranking fifth in Mount
Division I career history in goals (20) and seventh in points
"I expect Chris to have a very good season," said Wheeler. "I believe that we have the talent around him to give Chris more opportunities to score this year."
Along with Wheeler, Patrick returns to the forward spot while Ryerson also adds freshman Steve Hamilton (Manchester, Md./North Carroll). Jimmy Ockford could see time at forward or midfield. Patrick appeared in 17 games with nine starts and found the twine once on 14 shots as a sophomore. The junior looks to return to his freshman scoring prowess when he posted five tallies and five assists for 15 points in 2008.
"I am expecting us to have a good offensive-mindset this year,"
said the coach. "We have plenty of combinations that we can play
and we have a bunch of guys that can score goals. We had some guys
that did not do as well last year and now they have a chance to get
back to the success that they had in the past."
Ryerson has made Mount soccer a family affair in recent years. Prior to this season, the Mount had six sets of players compete on the men's soccer team and Ryerson has coached three of those pairs. The Mount lost one brother combo when Scott Phinith's brother, Gary, graduated in May, but Ryerson added Alex's Ockford's brother Jimmy and Chris Wheeler's brother Patrick to the fray in 2010 to make the seventh and eighth brother duos to play with each other in program history. Connor Waraksa also joins the team this after having two siblings play Division I athletics, including his sister Breana who left the Mount as the women's lacrosse program's single-season and career leader in assists.
"I think that we are fortunate to have families that have a good soccer background," said Ryerson. "I played with my brother for three years and I know that it can really be an asset and that it can help the communication on the field."
Along with the family connection at the Mount, Ryerson will have a family reunion of his own this year when the team travels to the UNLV Tournament. Ryerson will face his alma mater, who is coached by Ryerson's brother Rich.
"I am excited for it," said Ryerson. "It will be a unique game, but Rich and I have been playing each other our whole life. I'm also excited about taking these players on this trip. It will be great to play two quality opponents right before we get into conference play."
To play as a team is almost like family and when a team comes together it can produce that special season. Mount St. Mary's started that foundation two years ago when it came close to the program's first-ever NEC Tournament Championship.
Ryerson believes that if his players stay focused, play very strong defense to limit the other team's opportunity while producing plenty of chances themselves the Mount will have a good chance of getting back to the NEC Tournament where anything can happen.
Mount St. Mary's opens the season at home against Towson on Wednesday night as the Waldron Family Stadium. Match time is 7 p.m.