Men's Soccer Trying To Win Without Stars

Sept. 30, 2009

By Taylor Soper
The Daily

The Husky men's soccer team has nearly always had its marquee star player. Whether it was Ely Allen and Kevin Forrest in 2007, or George John in 2008, the Dawgs were led by their star.

This season might be a bit different. For the first time since 2002, the UW does not return an All-Pac-10 player. Since this year's squad doesn't have a clear-cut, all-league star, they'll have to make up for that by playing even better as a complete team.

'This is a team that has to work together and make the team the star,' said head coach Dean Wurzberger, now in his 18th year as head coach. 'That's a challenge we get, and we can connect with each other and be very effective.'

The UW will look to a variety of players for success. One group of players Wurzberger sees as potentially season-changing is the senior class. There are various similarities with this year's squad and the team in 2003, when the senior class came up big without any 'stars.'

'The 2003 team came together, and the senior class had their best seasons in their four years at the UW,' Wurzberger said. 'We still have that possible. It's yet to take place in non-conference, but let's hope it turns around in conference play.'

The six seniors will hope to lead a team that comes off a disappointing season last year. Injuries and a lack of depth contributed to a 2008 season that was not up to par with usual Husky soccer success.

Senior and co-captain Rylan Hawkins has returned from injuries and is ready to display his talent as goalkeeper. Senior and fellow captain Taylor Hoss will anchor a talented Husky defense, which also includes junior Taylor Mueller and senior Casey Cunningham.

The start of the season has been mediocre at best. After starting off 2-0-1, the Huskies have only won once in the past six matches (as of Sept. 26). Although their 2-4-1 record may not show much success, the Dawgs have battled in every match, including a tough 1-0 loss to No. 17 Creighton on Friday.

The Huskies haven't been able to take advantage of scoring opportunities this season. Wurzberger wants his team to shoot quicker and not hesitate so much. He believes that with goals comes confidence, and that the earlier the Huskies can score goals, the easier they'll be able to close out games.

'We've got to release shots quicker,' he said. 'There is confidence there, and once we get some goals, you will see a lift in our confidence as a team.'

Junior midfielder Matt Van Houten and fellow junior midfielder Brad Keller were hampered by injuries last year but are both healthy and playing this year. Wurzberger decided to convert junior Casey Cunningham from defense to center forward. Thus far, Cunningham only has one goal.

'That's not good enough,' Wurzberger said. 'He had a great spring, and we hope he catches fire. There is a lot more ability than he's shown.'

New players include defender Will Pleskow and midfielders Quinton Beasley and Ryan Moore. Moore has been getting the most playing time out of the newcomers. Wurzberger hopes that the Dawgs can open up some games to allow more flexibility to get his talented freshman class more playing time.

'Will and Quinton are future guys for us, and they've got to learn the speed and the nature of D-I soccer,' he said. 'We know they'll be good down the road. Our games have been so tight that it's very hard to substitute a lot, and you just don't have the freedom.'

The Dawgs will begin Pac-10 matches on Sunday, Oct. 4th against UCLA. The tough schedule should help the Huskies prepare for their conference matches.

'We have 10 games in the Pac-10, and it's wide open,' Wurzberger said. 'You've got to go into the Pac-10 play battle tested and know what's going to hit you. The level goes up, and it's just as good every time. We've got to turn this thing around.'

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