Aug. 27, 2008
With a wealth of experienced veterans and an influx of young talent at his disposal, seventh-year head coach Jeff Rohrman’s goal for his Wisconsin men’s soccer team is clear: to return to the top of the Big Ten Conference standings.
The Badgers return nine players who started at least a dozen games last year and also welcome eight newcomers to the fold as they look to improve on a season that saw them qualify for the Big Ten Conference Championship but finish with a 6-7-6 overall record.
Despite tallying seven shutouts and never allowing an opponent to score more than three goals in a game, the Badgers were often unable to find the scoring they needed to win during the 2007 campaign. UW settled for a school-record six ties, and the Badgers were held to one or fewer goals in 12 of their 19 games.
“We had a number of 1-0 games last year, and with the way we can possess the ball and the movement we expect our guys to have, we should be able to reward ourselves a little more for the quality of ball control we have,” Rohrman said. “There were some games in which we felt like we outplayed the opponent but just couldn’t find our way to the goal.”
Beefing up the Badgers’ offensive attack while solidifying that strong defensive unit is the priority for Rohrman and his assistants in 2008, and the roster they have assembled provides plenty of options for accomplishing the task.
Senior Victor Diaz, a three-time All-Big Ten selection, is front and center in the Badgers’ quest to move up the conference standings, but Rohrman is looking for a number of players to step up and help Diaz carry the offensive load.
Chief among those expected to help carry the load are speedy junior Brian Bultman, the team’s leading goal-scorer from a year ago, and junior Scott Lorenz, who showed plenty of offensive prowess when he was moved to forward during the Badgers’ spring workouts.
Also expected to factor in up front is sophomore Bryan Gerster, who impressed the UW coaching staff with his work at forward during the spring, and freshman Mark Roos, an all-state player from Illinois.
“We have three or four guys we will be able to rotate through up front that we feel are going to cause problems for a lot of defenses,” Rohrman said. “It takes some time to get your attacking part of the game refined, but with the pieces we have, it should come sooner rather than later.”
Key in enabling an offensive resurgence for the Badgers will be the play of the team’s deep and experienced corps of midfielders, led by senior Kenny Dix. Junior Brandon Miller, who doled out six assists last season and finished third on the team in points with eight, also will be a cornerstone for the midfield unit. Miller and Lorenz were the only players to start all 19 games for the Badgers in 2007.
“I think we’ve got a very good group, and one of the things that will define this team is the leadership and experience we have in the midfield,” Rohrman said. “We have a lot of options, but we also have a lot of players who are into their third or fourth year that bring plenty of good experience and should be able to help us do some great things this season.”
Three other juniors, Pablo Delgado, Jon Rzepka and Taylor Waspi, add further depth in the midfield with each possessing two years of experience under their belts. The trio combined for six points last season, while Lorenz and his five points from a year ago could factor into the midfield discussion, as well.
Redshirt freshman Max Wilson, as well as true freshman Colin Monasterio, a strong possession player who was named Minnesota’s Mr. Soccer in 2007, also should see time at midfielder.
With emergence of Lorenz as an offensive threat, as well as the loss of B.J. Goodman and Nick Caronna to graduation, three key pieces of the UW defense that helped hold opponents to 1.47 goals per game in 2007 are gone.
Seniors Andy Miller, who started 18 games a year ago, and Zack Lambo, who made 13 starts, will anchor the back line. Who will join them likely will be sorted out over the Badgers’ first few games.
Aaron Nichols, named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team last season, may see time at defender but also will contribute in the midfield and possibly at forward. Waspi, Eric Conklin and Seton Hall transfer Austin Nyquist all are candidates to fill multiple roles, as well. With so many options at his disposal, Rohrman expects the Badgers to sport a four-man defensive formation in 2008.
“We could have a different look in the back line,” Rohrman said. “We feel good about what we have on defense, it’s just going to be a matter of finding out the best way to utilize the talent on our team.”
There certainly is no question mark when it comes to who will provide the Badgers’ last line of defense.
Junior Alex Horwath posted an outstanding season in goal in 2007 and shows every sign of being up to the challenge of providing a repeat performance this year. Horwath posted seven shutouts last season, his first in goal for the Badgers, and owned a 1.20 goals-against average after starting 17 of the team’s 19 games.
Sophomore Ryan Vint, who made a pair of starts in 2007, will again serve as Horwath’s backup,
“We feel very good about our goalkeeping situation, in Alex Horwath and Ryan Vint we have two very capable keepers who are both very talented,” Rohrman said. “We feel that’s one of the real strengths of our team.”