August 27, 2009

2009 Season Preview: Young Bulldogs Ready For Challenges

Yale Opens Season Saturday Against Quinnipiac

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The 2009 edition of the Yale men's soccer team will be young - there are only five seniors on the roster. That doesn't mean 14th-year head coach Brian Tompkins isn't optimistic. His team features a number of experienced and talented players. With the addition of a strong freshman class, the Bulldogs hope to be in contention for the Ivy League title come late October.

"We have a talented group, and they will be hard-working and enthusiastic," said Tompkins, who earned his 200th career coaching victory last fall. "We will have a youthful look to the squad this season and will strive to make continual improvement with every game and be a better team at the end of the season than we are at the beginning."

That process began on Aug. 21 with the first day of practice. The Bulldogs open the season on Saturday at 7 p.m. against Quinnipiac at Reese Stadium.

"Pre-season is a time for laying the foundations of tactics and team understanding," Tompkins said. "We will be working hard to assimilate our younger players to take on the roles vacated by a large departing senior class from last year."

The Bulldogs will feature an experienced midfield, anchored by senior Jordan Raybould, the team captain. Raybould has started 43 games in his career and was an honorable mention All-Ivy selection in 2007. Senior Jon Carlos also has been a significant contributor during his time at Yale. Last year he was one of only five players to appear in all 17 games.

Junior Eric Meyer is coming off a strong season during which he led the team with nine points (3 goals, 3 assists). Three other juniors will have a role in the midfield. Andy Shorten has appeared in 26 games in his first two years. Sebastian Serra has 19 games under his belt, while Dale Peterson is a technically gifted player. Sophomore Sam Bekenstein adds depth to the midfield.

Freshman Adrian Wright (Rochester Hills, MI) will try and make an impact. He was a first team all-state selection as a senior at Detroit Country Day School.

Up front, the Bulldogs appear to have more fire-power than in recent years. Senior Kevin Pope has been one of the team's top scorers in each of the last two years. A healthy season from junior Aden Farina-Henry would bolster the offense as well. Farina-Henry scored four goals last year, despite being limited to six games because of injury, and was an honorable mention All-Ivy selection. Junior Brad Rose, who tied for the team lead in assists in 2007, also is a threat. Sophomores Charlie Neil, Chris Dennen and Charlie Paris all gained valuable experience as rookies. Neil had four points (1 goal, 2 assists), while Dennen appeared in 14 games last fall and scored one goal.

Freshman Scott Armburst (Edmond, OK), who finished his career at Edmond Memorial High School with 24 goals and 34 assists, could add punch as well.

Yale's back line was hit hardest by graduation, but Tompkins has a number of candidates ready to fill the void. Senior Justin Song was the recipient of the team's most improved player award last fall. Also returning are sophomores Andy Hackbarth and Marcus DiLallo. Hackbarth earned honorable mention All-Ivy recognition last year despite being limited to 12 games because of injury, while DiLallo started seven games as a rookie.

Four freshmen will have the opportunity to earn playing time. Kevin Peterson (Sarasota, FL), Dale's younger brother, was a four-year starter at Saint Stephen's Episcopal School. Frank Shaw (Silver Spring, MD) was a three-time all-conference selection at the Sidwell Friends School. Milan Tica (Schereville, IN) was the Independent School League Player of the Year at Morgan Park Academy, and Tony Wilbar (Louisville, KY) was a three-time all-state selection at DuPont Manual.

Yale's last line of defense should be in the very capable hands of senior Travis Chulick, who played every minute of every game in goal last fall. He finished second in the Ivy League in save percentage (.832), and saves (84) and tied for second in shutouts (7). Sophomore Matt Chesky and freshman Bobby Thalman (Greenwood Village, CO) provide depth in goal. Thalman was an NSCAA/Adidas All Region selection as a senior at Colorado Academy.

The Bulldogs will face a challenging schedule that is highlighted by a visit to Reese Stadium on Oct. 20 by perennial national power UConn.

Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity