Panthers to face Norwich in tourney opener
|Head Coach Rob Wright|
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – For the second straight year, the Plymouth State University men’s soccer team will kick off the season with a trip to Bristol, Rhode Island, for the Roger Williams University Turfer Classic.
The Panthers will meet Norwich University on Saturday at 2:30 p.m., following the Roger Williams-William Paterson University contest that starts at 12 noon. The consolation game of the tournament is Sunday at 11:00 a.m., followed by the championship match at 1:30 p.m.
Following the tournament, Plymouth State will play its next three and five of its next six matches on home turf at Panther Field, beginning Wednesday, Sept. 8, vs. Salem State University (4:30 p.m.) The first Little East Conference match-up of the season is on Saturday, Sept. 18, at home against rival Keene State College.
Led by ninth-year head coach Rob Wright, PSU is coming off a 9-8-1 campaign in 2009, which included a trip to the ECAC New England Tournament, the fifth post-season berth in the past seven years. PSU will be aiming to return to the LEC Tournament after missing out last season.
The Panthers play a 17-game regular season schedule, including seven Little East contests. The annual LEC Tournament is on tap for the first week of November, with the champion receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
2010 PSU Men’s Soccer Outlook
Coach Wright welcomes back 13 veterans from last year along with 11 freshmen, many of whom come from distant lands.
“We have a lot of talent and we would like to think we will be very strong,” says Wright. “The big question is how a squad with 11 freshmen, many of whom are international students, develops and hopefully forms a cohesive unit. The potential is there in droves, but there are just a lot of unanswered questions.”
The Panthers have six returning starters and several others who saw significant action last year. Coach Wright says the returning strength of the team is straight down the middle.
“We have an exceptional goalkeeper,” says Wright, “a top-notch center back and two strong center midfielders. We have a large number of returning players and talented newcomers who can fill in around them. It’s just a matter of coming together as a team as quickly as possible.”
Sophomore Bjorn Ohlsson (Halmstad, Sweden) returns to the Panthers as the starting goalkeeper. Ohlsson had a terrific rookie year, posting five shutouts and earning All-LEC honors before his season ended with a serious knee injury in the final game.
“It has been a long recovery, but he’s been lucky to come back,” says Wright. “We’re hopeful to have him ready for this season.”
Sophomore Joakim Martinsson (Morlunda, Sweden) established himself as a solid defender at center back last year and should return to form this fall. Juniors K.C. Haywood (Lansdale, Pa.) and Alex Martins (Pawcatuck, Conn./Stonington) are also returning defenders who will see action, along with sophomore Matt Anderson (Shaker Heights, Ohio). Freshman Justin Hepburn (Williamstown, Vt./Spaulding) looks like the top newcomer.
Junior co-captain Dre Cabral (Tokyo, Japan) and sophomore co-captain Parker Spear (Sodus Point, N.Y./Sodus Central) give the Panthers a solid duo to lead the midfield. Cabral was an All-Conference selection last year and Spear was one of the top rookies in the conference. Stefan Welch (Tokyo, Japan/Yakota) and Tommy Schrey (Munich, Germany/Alvirne, N.H.) will also be looking for big senior seasons, and Wright says several of the newcomers will be looking to make impacts, such as freshmen Moses Igah (Abuja, Nigeria) and Anders Olsson (Sturefors, Sweden).
The Panther offense will be without the leading scorer in New England Division III soccer last year, Semir Mehmedovic, who graduated as one of Plymouth State’s all-time scoring leaders. Senior Eric Owens (Newton, N.H./Sanborn Regional) and sophomore Aly El Tambouly (Cairo, Egypt) are the leading returnees, so Coach Wright will look for offense from a combination of Owens and El Tambouly, some of the midfielders and one or two of the newcomers, like freshman Jake Sjoberg (Linkoping, Sweden) and David Quist (Stockholm, Sweden).
“Preseason has been a little chaotic,” says Wright, “with so many players from so many different backgrounds. It may take us a little longer to form a style of play and a cohesive unit, but hopefully the outcome will be very strong.”
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