Williams College men's head soccer coach Mike Russo (399-101-54 .720) will greet 31 candidates as enters his 34th season at the helm of the Ephs.
Last fall the Ephs finished 9-4-3 and missed out on advancing to the NCAA Tournament for only the third time in the 19 years NESCAC has permitted NCAA post-season team play.
Six players from 2011 have graduated, including 2011 All American Phil Vestergaard (back) who was a key factor in the Ephs' defense, which allowed only 10 goals in 16 matches. Four of the six graduated players were starters in 2011.
The Eph coaches and returning players are determined to not only make the NCAA Tournament, but also restore the program to its customary status one of the best in the nation.
While the defense was stingy in 2011, offensively goal production dropped from 37 in 2010 to 21 marking an area that must be improved upon this fall. On the bright side, the Ephs created more scoring opportunities than their opponents in all but three games. The Ephs are optimistic that with improved finishing the 9-4-3 record in 2011 can be bettered.
The Williams squad this fall will use a skillful, possession style of play to continue to create even more scoring opportunities than the opponents, while they strive to concede even fewer goals than they did last fall.
|Than Finan '13|
Despite the loss of Vestergaard, the defense should be strong with the return of two veteran goalkeepers. Senior Than Finan and junior Peter Morell are high-quality keepers who will battle it out for the starting position along with sophomore, Andrew Bravo.
Senior captain Matt Ratajczak will anchor the center of the defense in his left center back position. Ratajczak is an excellent 1v1 defender and is very good in the air. He has excellent distribution ability from the back position. Sophomore Luke Pierce and several promising first years will compete for the right center back spot. Sophomore Andres Burbank-Crump, who started last year in the left back position, proved to be a very steady performer. Junior Ralston Louie will compete with Burbank-Crump for a starting role. On the right side of the defense, junior Josh Miller-Lewis and sophomore Chris Seitz will challenge each other in the preseason to see who will win the right back spot.
Midfield should once again be a strong point for the Ephs as senior co-captain Peter Christman will provide leadership in that part of the field-either as a holding midfielder or as a more attacking central player. Noah Cadet, a skillful junior will look to hold down a starting role but will be pressed hard by a group of talented sophomores that include Michael Madding, Tim Marchese, Matt Muralles and Nathan Miller. The "engine room" of the team should be high energy with the capability to break down opposing defenses with skillful passing.
Junior User Kushaina, last year's leading goal scorer with four, returns in the striker position. Kushaina is blazing fast and will be looked upon to at least-double the number of goals he scored last season. Veteran senior Patrick Ebobisse who suffered through several injuries last year is expected to provide the Ephs with some additional scoring punch.
| Peter Christman '13
Two strong, target type center forwards that will be getting time up top include juniors Dan Lima and Matt Kastner. First year Mohammed Rashid will push the upper classmen for playing time, as he is quick, skilled and can score.
Other first years expected to make an impact are defenders Marcus Christian, Noah Grumann, and Troy Ritter, along with midfielders Geoff Danilack and Jonathan Westling..
Once again the Ephs will play a rigorous schedule, which will be among the strongest in the country. The NESCAC has long been one of the nation's deepest and most challenging conferences and 2012 is no exception.
All of the NESCAC teams have dramatically improved and four different NESCAC teams have gone to the NCAA Final Four over the last five years, substantiating the league's overall strength.
The Eph coaching staff is excited about this year's squad and they look forward to re-establishing their prominence in the region and nationally. "Our goal is to regain regional and national supremacy by playing an attacking style of play, which will enable us to create more goal scoring opportunities than our opponents and hopefully more goals," said Russo.
Russo's booters will open the 2012 season on the road at Westfield State on September 5th before returning home to host Bates on Cole Field in their first NESCAC contest on Cole Field at 1:30 PM.