2002 Men's Soccer Season Outlook
Aug. 19, 2002
After receiving its first NCAA play off berth in five years, the first appearance under head coach Kevin Grimes, the California men's soccer team returns strong for the 2002 season. In posting a 10-9-1 record in 2001, the Golden Bears finished fourth in the Pac-10 with a 3-5-0 mark, leaving a sweet taste of the NCAA Tournament to think about in the off season. Returning eight starters and gaining nine new faces, Cal looks to carry last year's momentum into this fall.Despite losing a top goal-scorer in Austin Ripmaster, the Bears will depend on the group of returning veterans to lead the team to another victorious season. Even though Cal remains a young team again this year, with only two returning seniors and six returning juniors, Grimes is not worried. 'The (10) sophomores come back battle tested, where last year everything was new to them,' said Grimes. 'Several freshman last year logged a lot of minutes and a lot of games. They are young, but now they are experienced young.'
FORWARDSThe Golden Bears lost second-team All-Pac-10 Ripmaster on the front line, yet Grimes recruited this year with an emphasis on attacking players to fill Ripmaster's shoes. 'With the return of Carl Acosta, Calen Carr, Matt Lawler and the incoming freshman, this should be our deepest forward line we have had in quite some time,' said Grimes.Acosta had an impressive freshman year, starting in 11 of 16 games, while recording five assists and two goals. Carr contributed two goals as a freshman and Lawler brings a much-needed experience to the forward line and figures to be a key part of the attack. Joining the forward position are freshmen Sam Peters, Pieter Berger and Matt Holtrust.
MIDFIELDERSFour starters are back in the midfield position, and they will play a key role if Cal hopes to earn its first back-to-back NCAA Tournament bids since 1986. Even with the graduation of first team All-Pac-10 midfielder Chris Roner, now playing for the San Jose Earthquakes, Cal hopes to successfully move onwards this season. Senior tri-captain Patrick Fisher, along with junior tri-captain Mike Hickman and sophomores Mike Munoz and Angel Quintero figure to be the heart of the midfield this year.Fisher received All-Pac-10 honorable mention last season, starting in 15 of 20 games and notching two goals and five assists. 'Patrick has improved every year since his freshman season,' said Grimes. 'I think he's going to have a breakout season this year, given the fact he's one of our most experienced players and he's an excellent two-way player.'Hickman added two assists and one goal as a sophomore, and will be looked upon to bring leadership to the field. Munoz made an immediate impact as a freshman, finishing second on the team with 13 points. Adjusting well to Division I competition, Munoz led the team with seven assists and was named to the All-Pac-10 second team. Quintero posted five goals during his first year at Cal, starting in 19 of 20 games and finishing third on the team with 10 points.'We have outstanding midfield players who will contribute either as starters or players coming off the bench. Our midfield will be a key component to our success this season,' said Grimes.Also competing for a starting spot are junior Omar Gusmao, sophomores Alex Martinez, who contributed two goals as a freshman, red shirt Ryan Swiontek and freshmen red shirt Garrett Terracciano, Tyson Wahl, Justin Delacruz and Nick Hatzke.
DEFENDERSThe Bears' defense returns sound, courtesy of an impressive performance by last year's freshmen defenders allowing a measly 24 goals in 20 games with six shutouts. Returning three out of four starters in the backfield in sophomores Troy Roberts, Noah Merl, and Kyle Navarro, Cal looks to have another stellar defensive showing this season.'Troy was a standout player in the back as a freshman,' said Grimes. 'We will count on him to bring leadership to our young back line.' Roberts received All-Pac-10 honorable mention, starting in all 20 games his rookie year.Merl, who started 16 games, and Navarro, who started 19 times, combine to bring knowledge and skill learned from last season.Also returning on the defensive end is sophomore David Scheid, who red shirted last season, but has five collegiate games under his belt, and Yohei Fukuda, who was part of the talented group of freshmen last year, starting in all 12 of his appearances before a season-ending injury. A pair of newcomers, junior transfer Kevin Maffris and freshman Andrew Felder, look to provide solid depth to the defender position.
GOALKEEPERSLogging over 1900 minutes and starting in all 20 games last season in the goalkeeper position, senior tri-captain Josh Saunders will man the goal and bolster an already veteran-laden defense.'Josh will be the backbone of our defense,' said Grimes. 'He was recognized as one of the top goalkeepers in our region last year, and has a chance to be one of the best goalkeepers in the country,' said Grimes. 'He has an excellent opportunity to play professionally next season.' After 88 saves and a 1.13 GAA, Saunders was named to the first team All-Pac-10 as a goalkeeper for the 2001 season.Backing up Saunders is junior Brian Walker, who gained some valuable minutes in goal his freshman season and freshmen red shirt Chris Drake and Mike Oseguera.
SCHEDULE'It was a given that last year's difficult schedule not only got us into the NCAA Tournament, but prepared our players for the pressures that they faced in the playoffs' said Grimes.This year's strength of schedule may once again make an assist, 'from the opening weekend, every game will be a test for us and this will only prepare us for another potential playoff run,' noted Grimes.Half of the Bears' games are against opponents that made the NCAA Tournament last year including NCAA semifinalist Stanford and quarterfinalist Southern Methodist. Conference play is predicted to again be a battle, as Stanford, UCLA and Washington were ranked in the Top 20 last year.