Beavers Begin Quest For Another Postseason Bid On The Road This Weekend
Aug. 27, 2003
CORVALLIS, Ore. - -
One game at a time. That was the emphasis that worked so well for last year's record-setting Oregon State men's soccer squad; now, more than ever, that will be the emphasis for the 2003 crew.
After a first round loss in the 2002 NCAA College Cup, the Beavers have their long-range sights set on a deeper venture into the NCAA postseason this year, but the short-term focus will be on the task at hand.
'The one thing we're going to be stressing to the guys like we did last year is that, so many times, you get caught up in wanting to get there that you don't get there,' fifth-year OSU coach Dana Taylor said. 'What we did last year that was extremely successful was we took it one game at a time.
'We're going to go at it that way, that we're going to outwork every team in the country if we want to get back to the postseason.'
Helping OSU in its quest for a second straight trip to the postseason will be an array of talented returning veterans and a recruiting class ranked 15th in the nation by College Soccer News.
Up top will be a group that could be one of the most potent in the country, as the Beavers are deep on the front line.
Returning first-team All-Pac-10 selection Alan Gordon, whose 34 points led the conference in scoring last year, headlines the group in the middle. Gordon is joined on the wings by returning starters Ryan Johnson (so., 13 points and honorable mention All-Pac-10 in 2002) and Brian Farber (sr., 18 starts), who played in the midfield for much of 2002.
Seeing action on the wings will be 2002 honorable mention All-Pac-10 pick Matt Johnson (9 points), as well as highly-touted newcomers Bryan Jordan (Temple City, Calif.) and Robbie Findley (Phoenix, Ariz.).
'Depending on how this group comes together, the front line could be very dangerous and more productive than it was last year,' Taylor said. 'We are very deep up top and have a lot of athleticism, speed and skill.'
Given that the 2002 Beaver offense put up a whopping team-record 133 points on 47 goals and a school-best 39 assists and led the Pac-10 in every major offensive category, that's a scary thought for OSU opponents.
The midfield will be flush with new faces, including Carlos 'Boku' Cornejo (Torrance, Calif.) and Nathan Quan (Burnaby, B.C.), who has extensive experience with the Canadian National Team.
Battling for the defensive mid spots will be returner Nick Donaldson (sr., 20 career starts) - who figures to see time situationally as an attacking mid - and newcomers Matt Bowman (Tigard, Ore.), Jordan, Chris Ritter (Meridian, Idaho), Evan McNeley (jr./tr., Seattle Univ.), and perhaps Farber.
'I look for Boku, Quan, McNeley and Donaldson to make an immediate impact in the middle of the park,' Taylor said. 'It will be a dogfight to see who starts. It could be different people depending on who's playing well, their health, and who our opponent is.
'We're looking for more control of the ball in the midfield this year, and the players we have in those positions will help us do that.'
The back line returns four starters, including honorable mention all-conference picks Christian vanBlommestein (sr., 53 career starts) as a reliable center back and the speedy Kurt Ness (sr., 52 career starts) at right back.
Ross Duncan (sr., 4 assists, 35 career starts) returns to his left back spot, and Brian Johnson (jr., 18 career starts) is slated as the other center back. Freshmen Josh Pulido (Temecula, Calif.) and Alex Asai figure to battle for time as well.
'This group is solid,' Taylor said. 'They're experienced and very well-organized.
'You've got some of the best backs in the conference in that line; they're very physical and have plenty of tenacity and speed.'
Peter Billmeyer (sr., 39 consecutive starts, 50 overall) has been a mainstay in goal through his first three years, and has amassed a school-record 254 saves over that span, including an OSU record 100 last year. With 10 career shutouts, he needs three to break the OSU record this year.
Matt LaMont (so., 4 games in 2002) and Matthew Fitchett (fr., Albany, Ore.) will vie for the backup spot; LaMont performed that duty last year. Freshman Jason Mariner (fr., Phoenix, Ariz.) will likely redshirt this year.
'With a new goalkeeper coach (Anthony Latronica), I really expect great things out of Peter this year,' Taylor said. 'He could have a much more significant impact on the team this year due to Latronica's tutelage.
The fact that opponents must shut down the league's most potent offense and can no longer look past OSU to their travelling counterpart is testament to the work done by the student-athletes and the coaching staff.
'Obviously, it's not going to be as easy this year,' Taylor said of the relative ease with which OSU scored goals in 2002; the Beavers had six games of four goals or more. 'The reasons are twofold: One, our schedule is much harder, and two, everybody knows we're playing with three up top and we're not going to disguise that.
'Teams are going to spend a lot more time focusing on us defensively the week prior, and that's fine. But we're also going to get better at what we do.
'This year, we're going to try and hold on to the ball a lot more; we're probably going to squeak through a lot more of our games 2-1, 1-0 than we did last year. It's not going to be as open.
'Each year, I think we have to show a little different face as to how we're going to play and then mix it up.
'We've got the players that we want. This team is the team for the future, even though we have seven seniors. This is the way we want it to be.'