2011 Season Preview: Bulldogs Optimistic As Season Opener Approaches

2011 Season Preview: Bulldogs Optimistic As Season Opener Approaches

Yale Opens Friday Against Central Connecticut

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Yale men's soccer coach Brian Tompkins noticed a different vibe from his team during practice last spring. It was almost as if his young squad was maturing right before his eyes.

Tompkins expects that attitude and enthusiasm to carry over this fall and help the Bulldogs get back to their familiar perch in the upper echelon of the Ivy League standings. With nine players returning who started at least 10 games last year and a strong incoming freshman class, there is plenty of reason to believe the Bulldogs have turned the corner.

"We embarked on a program of change last spring. The changes incorporated new coaches, new training methods and a renewed commitment to raise the competitive level of every individual and the team as a whole," said Tompkins who will begin his 16th year at the helm when Yale hosts Central Connecticut in the season opener on Friday at 3 p.m. "This has led to a methodology based on greater tempo and dynamism in training, shorter but more competitive practices and the continual development of technical and tactical confidence."

Tompkins and his new staff of assistant coaches Hiro Suzuki, Cailean Bailey and Jay Alberts have been busy fine-tuning the changes in the preseason.

"We have worked hard to improve the technical quality of our players and especially in the all-important area of ball possession," said Tompkins. "I anticipate we will be much more effective in keeping the ball and, as a result, create more scoring opportunities this season."

Yale scored only 10 goals last year so that is clearly a point of emphasis. Fortunately, there are a number of candidates to help the Bulldogs increase their offensive output, including a pair of seniors who missed last season with injuries. Brad Rose was a second team All-Ivy selection in 2009 after leading the team with 16 points, including six goals. Aden Farina-Henry has been hampered by an injury for two years but has looked good in the preseason and could make an impact. He earned honorable mention All-Ivy recognition in 2009 after scoring four goals despite being limited to six games.

Sophomore Peter Jacobson showed exciting potential in his rookie year. He finished with two goals and seemed to find himself in position to score on a number of other occasions. Fellow sophomore Cody Wilkins also showed exciting potential in his 12 appearances last year. Senior Charlie Paris has had a strong preseason and will contribute up front as well.

Tompkins has solid depth in the midfield led by senior Chris Dennen, the team captain. He was one of only three players to start all 17 games last year. Two sophomores will also have key roles. Max McKiernan was the only rookie to appear in all 17 games last year and was named to the all-tournament team at the Brown Classic, while Jenner Fox appeared in 16 games. Senior Charlie Neil and junior Frank Shaw also have considerable experience.

Juniors Kevin Peterson, who started four games last year, and Adrian Wright are both versatile players who should make contributions.

Freshmen will also have an impact in the midfield. Peter Ambiel comes to Yale from the MVLA Raptors 92 Gold club team. Kevin Michalak was the Gatorade Connecticut Player of the Year and an NSCAA All-American last fall at Farmington High School. Conner Lachenbruch earned first team All-CIF honors at Rancho Bernardo High School and Max Morice comes to Yale from the Shattuck St. Mary's Club team in the US Developmental Academy.

Tompkins figures to have a very stingy and experienced defense, anchored by a pair of seniors. Andy Hackbarth is a three-time All-Ivy selection but is fighting an injury in the preseason. Sophomore Nick Alers started 16 games a year ago and earned honorable mention All-Ivy recognition. Senior Marcus DiLallo (19 career starts) and junior Milan Tica (27 career starts) also have plenty of experience. Junior Tony Wilbar has looked solid in the preseason and should see considerable time. Sophomore Tucker Kocher also should see regular time.

In goal, junior Bobby Thalman is the only experienced returner. He started all but one game last year and tied for third in the Ivy League with 65 saves. Freshman Blake Brown brings strong credentials to New Haven. He was the district most valuable player last fall as a senior at Legacy High School. Sophomore Samuel Obletz joined the team the last fall and has made steady progress in his time with the program.

Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity