Aug. 22, 2006
New year, new look, new optimism. Every season is a challenge, but this year the Indiana University men's soccer team will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2005 to win their eighth NCAA Championship.
To say that the 2005 season wasn't what the Hoosiers expected is an understatement. Failing to win at least a share of the Big Ten regular season title for the first time in nine years and falling in the second round of the NCAA tournament, 2-0 to Notre Dame, a team that Indiana defeated 3-0 earlier in the season, proved for a difficult end to the year.
"Although we only lost three games last year, we didn't really achieve anything. I know my guys who are returning are hungry to right that and win the key games, which we let slip away last year," head coach Mike Freitag said.
The team loses six players off the 2005 squad. All six signed professional contracts following the season and made up over 50-percent of the nation's fifth-best scoring offense. Freitag has a solid core of players returning, including midfielder Brad Ring, who was on the Big Ten All-Freshman Team last year, and Josh Tudela, the Hoosiers leading returning scorer and a second team All-Big Ten honoree. Add to the mix several talented newcomers, including the Gatorade National High School Soccer Player of the Year Eric Alexander and the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA)/adidas National Youth Player of the Year Ofori Sarkodie, and the Hoosiers will again look to be in contention of the national championship.
"It's a talented group of young men who want to get back to winning ways and the standard that we're used to," said Freitag.
In goal, two players will vie for a starting spot. Junior Chris Munroe started all 22 games last year with a 0.59 shutout percentage, but will be challenged by sophomore Chay Cain, who saw significant action during the spring.
"There's an old saying that you need two good goalkeepers to have one, and I have two good goalkeepers. We'll see which one is the one. It's going to be a challenge there," Freitag said.
Redshirt freshman Joe Andrews may also see playing time.
On defense, the Hoosiers return the core of players that helped Indiana rank sixth in shutout percentage last season. The backs also ranked 15th in the country with a goals against average of 0.68.
Three-year starter and team captain senior Julian Dieterle is a key returning player.
"Julian has been a rock ever since he started here. He is a real leader on the field and a good, solid defender," Freitag said.
Junior Greg Stevning is also a returning starter. Junior Charley Traylormade eight starts last year while appearing in 18 games.
Two newcomers, Ofori Sarkodie and Kevin Alston, both played with the Under-17 National team. Both players competed in the spring season.
"Ofori played well in the spring. He will be a big addition to our defense," said Freitag.
Other players who will compete include junior Kyle Schwartz, junior Kyle Brabender, sophomore Ian Clair and freshman Kevin Sparks.
The midfield will be one of the Hoosiers strongest areas, led by three all-league honorees.
Senior John Michael Hayden finished the season with seven points on three goals and one assist. He earned second team All-Big Ten honors as a sophomore in 2004.
"John is one of the most technically gifted players we've had here," said Freitag.
Senior Josh Tudela, a second team All-Big Ten selection last season, is Indiana's leading returning scorer, scoring six goals with five assists for 17 points last season.
"Josh has just been solid for us. He is a consistent player that comes every day to play. You sometimes don't realize how important he is to our team," Freitag said.
Sophomore Brad Ring, who spent his offseason with the Under-20 National team, was named to the Big Ten All-Freshmen team last year.
"Brad is going to be a dominant player in college soccer," says Freitag.
Sophomore John Mellencamp, who battling an injury for part of the year, had a strong spring. Sophomores Doug Reisinger and Kiki Wallace, as well as freshman Lee Hagedorn will look to add depth.
A pair of talented freshmen will vie for a starting slot in the midfield, led by Gatorade National High School Soccer Player of the Year Eric Alexander. Freshman Daniel Kelly played with the Under-17 National team.
Junior Nick Sutter is a newcomer to the team, transferring from the University of Illinois - Chicago.
The forward position is an area where the Hoosiers suffer the most losses. However, Freitag feels confident that the returning players will step up their game.
Sophomore Kevin Noschang was a key reserve last year, playing in 21 games.
"Kevin is a young man with tremendous potential. With his speed, he is one of our best offensive weapons," Freitag said.
Kevin Robson has been a top reserve the past three years.
Sophomore Billy Weaver appeared in eight games last year.
The top newcomer in the front, Darren Yeagle, looks to make an immediate impact in the scoring. Redshirting last season, he was a mainstay in the Hoosier lineup during the 2006 spring season.
"Darren is an exciting, explosive player. I am very excited about him," said Freitag.
Sophomore newcomers Jacob Tudela and George Tembon, as well as Neil Wilmarth, also have the potential to be a force up front.
Indiana annually plays one of the nation's toughest schedules. The Hoosiers will face six teams that played in the NCAA Tournament last year.
"We're going to have to be ready to play right from the start, because we're going to be challenged early. I like to play the best and see how we stack up," Freitag said.
The year starts with exhibition games against Illinois-Chicago and the defending national champion Maryland Terrapins at the IPFW Soccer Showcase.
The Hoosiers begin the season at the Notre Dame Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament on August 25-27.