Providence, RI- Second-year head coach Patrick Laughlin expects his 2011 soccer team to continue its upward trend and contend in the upper echelon of the Ivy League and make another run in the NCAA Tournament with the return of 20 letter winners from last year's squad, including eight starters and eight senior veterans.
Laughlin will rely on team captains Taylor Gorman '12 and Ryan McDuff '13 to lead the squad both on and off the field this fall, as the team features a strong mix of senior leadership, an experienced sophomore and junior class, and a large group of rookies that will look to make an immediate impact.
The Bears return five of their top six scorers from last year's squad in Sean Rosa '12, Thomas McNamara '13, Taylor Gorman '12, Austin Mandel '12, and T.J. Popolizio '12. Rosa, who started in all 20 games, led the effort with 17 points on six goals and five assists. Rosa earned the team's Heinz Kubel Award, which is given to the best offensive player. Following close behind Rosa in scoring was McNamara, who netted three goals and dished out four assists to combine for 10 points on the year.
Gorman ranked fourth on the team in scoring with 10 points on three goals and four assists. He tallied two goals during Brown's first game of the year against Bryant in the first annual Ocean State Classic, and then scored in the second round of the NCAA tournament against UConn. Two of his assists also came in NCAA tournament action against Boston College.
A spark off the bench, Mandel started in nine of 18 games and knocked in two goals, including the Bears' game-winner against Boston College in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. He also handed out a team-high five assists for Bears last year. Also adding to the offense was McNamara, a Second Team All-Ivy selection and an NSCAA All-Northeast Region midfielder, who started in 18 of 20 games and combined for 10 points on three goals and four assists. Popolizio was a spark off the bench scoring three game-winners out of his four goals. Adding depth to the offense will be Voltaire Escalona and Jose Salama.
A perennial strength of the Bears, the defensive unit once again looks to be strong as the Bears boast a back line which features the return of First Team All-Ivy defender Dylan Remick '13, Eric Robertson '13 and co-captain Ryan McDuff '13. All three defenders saw action in all 20 games last season without missing a start.
Brown's stingy defense went unbeaten on Stevenson Field last year with a 9-0-3 record, and surrendered just one goal in their first nine games of the year. Remick, Brown's left back, also handed out two assists for the Bears. Robertson established himself as a starter last season and played an integral role in Brown's 11 shutouts. Voted as a co-captain by his peers, McDuff continued to improve his game in the off-season and has taken on additional responsibilities. Looking to push their way into additional playing time in the back are Aidan Leonard '14 and Kevin Gavey '13.
The Bears' midfield will be deep and talented, as Second Team All-Ivy selection McNamara, Honorable Mention All-Ivy honorees Rob Medairos '12 and Evan Coleman, and team captain Taylor Gorman '12 will return to the starting lineup. Medairos started and played in 19 games for Bruno last season and dished out two assists on the year, while Coleman started and played in 17 games before being sidelined from an injury. The midfielder scored two goals and handed out two assists missing post-season play. Also adding strength to the midfield are Jay Hayward '12, Mike Manella '12, Jack Kuntz '14, and Bobby Belair '13.
Currently, the goalkeeping position is wide open for the Bears, as all four goalkeepers are competing for the starting spot in net. With the loss of First Team All-Ivy goalkeeper Paul Grandstrand, who set the Brown single-season shutout record with 11 last season, all four men are capable of securing the starting job.
Returning for the Bears is junior Sam Kernan-Schloss and sophomore Josh Weiner, while newcomers Mitch Kupstas and Alex Carr have been added to the mix. Kernan-Schloss, who has been in the program the longest and has the most experience, is coming off an injury that kept him out last year. Weiner made some excellent strides last season and showed some great progress playing with his PDL team in the summer.
Kupstas, very brave and technically sound, has already showed that he is a great communicator with the Brown team. Carr has a great deal of experience and has played in big games representing his country, which should ease his transition with the Bears.
Laughlin added eight newcomers to the 2011 roster and expects each to help the team succeed in their quest for an Ivy Championship. All the rookies are pushing for playing time and will compete for time on the field.
The Bears open up their season with the second annual Ocean State Cup on Friday, Sept. 2 and 12 p.m. when Brown takes on Providence College, and will then either play Bryant or URI on Monday, Sept. 5 at 5 p.m.
Brown, ranked No. 11 in the country during preseason, has a difficult non-conference schedule which will help prepare the squad for the tough Ivy League slate. The Bears will host George Mason and Temple in their Brown Soccer Classic on Sept. 9 and 11th, and will head south to challenge South Carolina for the Gamecock Classic where they will also face Kentucky.
"Tournaments are good at the start of the season as they test our depth playing two games in such a short time," said Laughlin. "These tournaments and our other non-conference games will prepare us for the Ivy season and be big tests for us. With four of the eight teams in the Ivy League making the NCAA Tournament last year, it shows that the league is one of the most competitive and difficult leagues in the country. Every game is a challenge."