Michigan State Preview
Aug. 26, 2004
To be successful it is first necessary to expect success. Such is the mindset of the Spartan men's soccer program as it enters the 2004 season.
"We have a core of players here with this team that have experienced some good success the last few years," said 28th year head coach Joe Baum. "These players have expectations of winning on their own. Once you've tasted success you want to experience it again."
After finishing the 2003 season with an 11-5-2 record, MSU has recorded four straight double-digit win seasons for the first time since 1984-87. In addition, the Spartans narrowly missed making their second NCAA Tournament appearance in three years.
"Our goal every year is to get to the NCAA Tournament," said Baum. "A few years ago that was almost and dream and now it's a realistic goal. I think this group has raised the bar."
"He is truly a gifted player," said Baum. "He's got it all; speed, aggressiveness, finishing ability. Every time he gets the ball he's fun to watch. I think he can establish himself as one the best forwards in the Midwest."
Gruber scored just two goals last season, although they were both game-winners, while being plagued by injuries. One year earlier, Gruber totaled seven goals.
"When Jordan is healthy and running on all cylinders, he is an outstanding player," said Baum.
"If Jordan and John can stay healthy we can be a productive team," added Baum. "They're both creative, gifted forwards who excel in pressure situations."
Senior Udo Seidel will see significant minutes off the bench in the Spartan attack. Last year was a little bit of an adjustment after transferring from South Carolina, but Baum is confident Seidel will have a strong season.
The other reserve striker will be Kenzo Webster, John's brother. Although he is a little different than his brother, stronger but not as fast, Kenzo should be every bit as productive. Coming out of high school, the Spartan coaching staff viewed him as the top forward in the Midwest.
Junior Ryan McMahen was a second-team All-Big Ten performer last season at attack mid. He led the Spartans in points (21) and assists (9) one year after missing the entire 2002 season with an injury.
"Last year, Ryan McMahen went from being a good player to almost a star player," said Baum. "He ran our attack and scored some big time goals. He's an intensely driven person who just wants to win."
Defensive midfielder junior Steve Doster enters his third season as a starter for the Spartans. Not a flashy player, Doster is a steady influence in the MSU midfield.
"Steve Doster has a good game every time he steps on the field," said Baum. "Every game, you know what you're getting out of him, 90 good, solid, hard-working minutes. He's very good defensively, sees the field really well and has good composure on the ball."
Junior John Kaczmarek will be the starter at right mid. He came off the bench last season after starting 15 games as a freshman. Coming off a great spring he is ready to resume his starting position.
On the left side, sophomore Matt Kreikemeier enters his first year as a starter. A well-rounded player, Kreikemeier is solid both offensively and defensively.
While the Spartans feature experienced starters in the midfield, they'll have to rely on inexperienced reserves.
Redshirt freshman Ryan Dick is coming off a very good spring. Dick could also be a reserve striker. Junior Joe Fourre missed all of last year with an injury, but is ready to return to action in 2004.
In addition, Michigan State adds three recruits to the mix. Doug DeMartin, Ben Pirmann and Karl Trost join the Spartans after outstanding prep careers.
Senior Kellen Kalso will be the starting sweeper for the fourth year, having started every game of his career.
"Kellen gives us some experience in the back line," said Baum. "He's a good communicator and a good leader."
Although only a sophomore, Greg Doster gives MSU experience at left fullback after playing virtually every minute of last season.
At the stopper position, sophomore Greg Janicki will attempt to replace three-time All-Big Ten performer Nick DeGraw. At nearly 6-foot-3, Janicki brings great size to the position.
At right fullback, Michigan State has to replace three-year starter Kevin Wittig. Senior Nick Belloli, junior Chris Dahlin and red-shirt freshman John Folino all played the position during spring practice and have a chance at earning a starting role come fall.
In addition freshmen Rauwshan McKenzie and Ryan Gochneaur are two prep stars who could challenge for the position along with incoming freshman transfer John Pizanis, who joins the Spartans after redshirting at Oakland last year.
In addition to the two returning players, junior Mike Kotick and freshman Todd Henderson add depth in goal. Kotick was the team manager last season and has earned a roster spot. Henderson was a first-team all-state goalie in Indiana, but needs to get adjusted to college soccer.
Look for the Spartans to share the minutes in goal early, especially in the exhibition contests, before determining a starting goalkeeper.