Tompkins Optimistic As Bulldogs Prepare For Opener

Sept. 4, 2003

2002 was another successful season for the Yale men's soccer team. The Bulldogs finished with a winning record (9-6-1) for the sixth time in head coach Brian Tompkins' seven-year tenure and knocked off a defending NCAA champion for the second time in four years. Many of the key ingredients from that team return, including the top five scorers, so Yale figures to be in the hunt for the Ivy League title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

"In 2003 we hope to put the valuable experiences of last season to good use," Tompkins said. "Ultimately the road to the Ivy championship and beyond will require competitiveness and consistency, and this year's squad has the talent and mentality to go far. The Ivy League is as delicately poised as ever and there will be no clear favorite."

A challenging non-conference schedule should help prepare the Bulldogs for Ivy play.

"The opportunity to play against five teams that were in last year's NCAA Tournament will be a tremendous challenge for the team," Tompkins said. "NCAA finalist Stanford and semifinalist Creighton are powerhouses who will test our mettle early in the season. Those games coupled with the Ivy games and the in-state rivalries make for an exciting schedule."

Defense should again be a strength. Senior Brian Roberts, this year's captain, returns to anchor a defensive unit that allowed only 19 goals in 2002. He has started every game since he arrived at Yale and is a three-time All-Ivy selection. Sophomores Ryan Morrissey and Marc Vimolratana were both regular contributors in their rookie years. Morrissey started 14 games, the most of any freshman, while Vimolratana made 12 starts. Senior Luke Rona also is a candidate to start.

The unit should also benefit from the return of junior Jon Skalecki, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. As a freshman in 2001, Skalecki started 16 games and had three assists. Senior Chris Wells, who has appeared in 11 games, will try to earn increased playing time. Sophomores Stephen Cockrell, who missed his rookie season with an injury, and Chris Lange, who played in two games last year, add depth.

Freshmen Ruggero Bozotti (Geneva Switzerland), Evan Stone (Pasadena, CA) and Jake Miller (San Rafael, CA) have the potential to be impact defenders.

The Bulldogs have depth and experience returning in goal. Senior Geoff Hollington and sophomore Matt Aleksinas will compete for the starting job. Hollington started 13 games last year and tied for third in the Ivy League in shutouts with three. He posted a 1.29 goals against average and a .738 save percentage. Aleksinas showed promise in his rookie year, posting a 0.89 goals against average and an .800 save percentage. In a 1-0 victory against Brown he made seven saves and posted his first career shutout. Freshman Greg Carlson (Moorestown, NJ) was an honorable mention all-state selection last year at Moorestown High School and provides depth.

"On defense we will look for continued improvement from the returning players as we integrate some talented newcomers into the team," Tompkins said. "We are confident that we have a good blend which will enable us to be more consistent."

Offensively, Yale figures to improve on last year's total of 27 goals. Junior Lindsey Williams led the Ivy League in points with 24 and tied for the league lead in goals with 10. He was named first team All-Ivy and second team All-New England. Senior Jay Alberts is a three-time first team All-Ivy selection. He needs only four assists to become Yale's all-time leader, and his 51 career points are the fifth most in school history.

A pair of juniors are also offensive threats. Andrew Dealy, who was second on the team in goals with five, and Ryan Raybould, who was fifth in points with seven, were both honorable mention All-Ivy picks last year. Senior Justin Burton, also an honorable mention All-Ivy selection in 2001, was fourth on the team in scoring last fall with eight points. He has started 47 games in his career and has 25 points. Freshman Jordan Rieger (Indianapolis, IN) could make an impact in midfield.

Sophomores Shannon Brooks and Louis Pacilio both showed potential coming off the bench as freshmen. Brooks appeared in 12 games and had five points, while Pacilio played in 15 games and contributed one goal. Senior Allen Cerasani and juniors Aaron Rodriguez and Immy Khan have limited experience but hope to earn more playing time this fall.

Freshmen Gage Hills (Mill Valley, CA), a two-time All-American, and Alex Munns (Des Moines, IA) should add offensive firepower. Other freshmen hoping to make an impact are Josh Block (New Berlin, WI), James Stewart (Weston, CT), William Spry (Winston-Salem, NC) and Nick Franchot (Takoma Park, MD).

"The maturity and experience of our offensive players should help the team once again be a dangerous attacking force," Tompkins said. "The addition of some new players will allow us a lot of flexibility and depth and strengthen the goal scoring corps."

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