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The Wilkes University men’s soccer team will begin their 2006 season on Friday, September 1, when they play host to local rival College Misericordia in a non-conference match at 4:00 p.m. at Ralston Field.
The Colonels return 15 veterans from last season’s squad that fashioned an overall record of 10-7-2 and earned a berth in the Freedom Conference playoffs. Those veterans and a host of talented newcomers have Wilkes poised to make another run at a playoff berth this fall.
“We have a very balanced roster with each of our four classes well represented,” commented head coach Phil Wingert. “Our team chemistry has been very good so far and the newcomers have adjusted very well. This may be one of the more competitive pre-season camps that we have had based on our depth.”
Leading the list of returnees is first team All-Freedom Conference selection and second team NSCAA All-Mid Atlantic Regional All-American, senior forward Steve Uhas. Uhas registered 13 goals and handed out six assists a year ago. Senior Tim Butzek, sophomore Cory Golden and Matt Santarelli, along with freshmen Bret Osswald and Greg Miller, will also look to gain playing time at the forward position. Butzek and Santarelli saw action in 17 matches apiece last season, while Golden appeared in six contests.
Senior midfielder Mike Bridy, who was a first team All-Conference honoree in 2004, also returns after seeing his 2005 campaign cut short due to a season-ending injury. He will be joined in the midfield by junior Andy Curry. Curry garnered second team All-Conference accolades a year ago after ending the season with one goal and one assist. Senior Matt Foreman played in all but one match last season and ranked third on the team with three goals and one assist, while junior Kyle Dukmen had one goal and appeared in all 19 contests. Sophomore Andrew York and freshmen Jonathan Kushner, Arthur Jankowski, Sean Vona and Andrus Cassidy are also expected to vie for time in the midfield.
The Wilkes defense features second team All-Freedom Conference selection junior Jimmy Thomas. The Colonels will have plenty of experience thanks to the return of seniors Bryan Riley, Justin Leach and Paul Gideon, as well as sophomore Matt Martin, who will make the switch from the midfield this season. Four rookies, Tom Mealing, Paul Seok, Troy Gibson and Keith Gardiner, will provide plenty of depth on the defensive side of the field.
The Colonels goalkeeping chores are in good hands as senior Dominik Proctor is set to begin his fourth year as the team’s starter. Proctor enjoyed an outstanding 2005 season, stopping 126 shots and allowing a mere 1.14 goals per match. Proctor also posted eight wins by shutout. Newcomer TJ Baloga will provide a capable backup in net this year.
“We have four All-Conference players returning from last season in Steve Uhas, Mike Bridy, Andy Curry and Jimmy Thomas, and one of the top goalkeepers in the Freedom Conference in Dominik Proctor, so our strength is certainly in the middle of the field,” stated Wingert. “I also think that we should be very sound defensively. We have quite a few veterans back from last season and should be a very experienced group.”
Wingert feels that one of the keys to success this season will be the Colonels ability to finish their scoring opportunities. “If we are going to have as successful a season as we hope we are going to need to find second and third scoring options to go along with Uhas. Curry is excellent at creating chances for both himself and his teammates, but we need to finish those chances. Two freshman, Bret Osswald and Greg Miller, are very offensive minded and could see time early on.”
“We strengthened our non-conference schedule this season and are hoping that this will prepare us well for the conference portion of our schedule,” continued Wingert. “Our goal as a team is to challenge for a playoff berth and try to win the Freedom Conference title.”