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Bulldogs Open Season Wednesday At Fairfield

Bulldogs Open Season Wednesday At Fairfield

Sept. 6, 2005

The stage for the 2005 Yale men's soccer season may actually have been set late in 2004. The Bulldogs won five of their final seven games last fall and finished with a 4-3 mark in Ivy League play, the seventh time in head coach Brian Tompkins' nine years that Yale had a winning record in Ivy play. The 2005 season gets underway with a game at Fairfield on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

The Bulldogs figure to be a serious contender for the league title again in 2005. Tompkins returns six of last year's top eight scorers, has a number of talented and experienced defenders and welcomes a strong freshman class that features a pair of NSCAA high school All-Americans.

"The 2005 season will be a challenging and exciting test for us as we look to build on the momentum developed at the end of last year," Tompkins said. "The schedule will once again see us pitted against some of the better programs in the country, and we are excited to be competing against teams from the ACC, Big Ten and Big East. As always the Ivy League crown will be hotly contested and we intend to make a strong run at the title."

Excellent defense has always been the hallmark of Tompkins-coached teams, and that should again be the case this fall. Senior Jon Skalecki anchors a defense that posted five shutouts last year. Skalecki, who has started every game he has appeared in at Yale, earned second team All-Ivy honors last fall. Junior Jake Miller had a breakout year in 2004 and was the recipient of the Frank Dunne Award as Yale's Most Improved Player. After appearing in only three games as a freshman, he started all 17 games in 2004.

Two other juniors figure to be regular contributors to the defense. Evan Stone made an immediate impact in his first season with the Bulldogs, starting 12 games, while Nick Franchot joined the team last year, appearing in 12 games, including one start.

Senior Stephen Cockrell, who has been hampered by injuries throughout his career, junior Ratko Jovic and sophomore James Craig add depth to the defense.

Five freshmen will try to earn playing time on the back line. Alex Afsahi (Oceanside, CA) has excellent size and athleticism. Alex Guzinski (Palo Alto, CA) was the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League - De Anza Division Most Valuable Player at Henry M. Gunn High School. Markus Jackson (Augusta, GA) was an all-state selection at the Academy of Richmond County. Frank Piasta (Santa Rosa, CA) was the North Bay League and Redwood Empire Player of the Year at Cardinal Newman School. Max Rhodes (Norman, OK) was a member of the Oklahoma Olympic Development Program.

Three goalkeepers will vie for the starting job. Senior Matt Aleksinas played every minute of every game in his sophomore year and was second in the Ivy League in shutouts (7) and third in goals against average (1.04). Sophomore Dwayne Whylly started five games last year and posted a 0.85 goals against average, while sophomore Erik Geiger played 45 minutes and did not allow a goal.

Senior Ryan Morrissey leads the group of midfielders. He started a career-high 15 games last year and his passing and possession skills help generate offense. Juniors Jordan Rieger and James Stewart should contribute as well. Rieger started 16 games last year and scored the only goal in Yale's victory over Hartford, while Stewart made his first appearance with the Bulldogs last year and played in 14 games, including six starts. Sophomore Matt Newman adds depth to the midfield.

Three talented freshmen will try to make an immediate impact in the midfield. Gavin Blades (Lakewood, OH) was the Ohio Player of the Year and an NSCAA All-America selection at St. Ignatius. Jonathan Carlos (Southbury, CT) was a New England Prep School All Star at the Taft School. Tyler Guse (Madison, WI) was an NSCAA All-America selection and the Wisconsin Player of the Year after scoring eight goals and adding 17 assists for Middleton High School.

The biggest obstacle Tompkins faces is replacing Andrew Dealy, Ryan Raybould and Lindsey Williams, all offensive threats who graduated last year after outstanding careers. Fortunately, there is talent and experience returning. Forward Shannon Brooks, the 2005 captain, has been a regular starter in each of the last two years, and last season he tied for the team lead in assists with four. Junior Alex Munns, who earned honorable mention All-Ivy recognition, was Yale's leading scorer with 17 points, which was second in the Ivy League.

Two other juniors should make a contribution. Gage Hills has played in every game since he arrived at Yale and tied for the team lead in assists last year with four. He also was third in goals (4) and points (12). Josh Block appeared in 16 games off the bench last year.

Freshman Liam Leonard (Camarillo, CA) was the Frontier League Most Valuable Player at Oaks Christian School and could make an immediate impact.

"There is good balance in this year's squad and there will be depth at virtually every position," Tompkins said. "The leadership and performance of the older players will be key to the team's success, and I expect that several players will have breakout seasons. The freshman class is deep and talented and if they learn and adapt quickly they could play a major role."

Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity