With new expansion in the Capital Athletic Conference this season, the Salisbury University men's soccer team locks its eye on the program's eighth title. The Sea Gulls head into the season with leadership and experience at all positions, as well as plenty of fresh faces with nine freshmen and five transfers showing promising additions to the 2013 squad.
"Our goal is to win the conference championship and to guarantee ourselves a spot in the national tournament," said Head Coach Gerry DiBartolo, who enters his 32nd season leading the team. "Hopefully, if we play well and stay injury free, we can accomplish that."
The Sea Gulls finished the 2012 schedule 9-7-2 overall, 4-1-1 in the conference, falling short to the University of Mary Washington, 1-0, in double overtime during the conference semifinals.
The preseason started early for the team as they traveled to Spain for 10 days, playing in four matches and two trainings with professional coaches. DiBartolo commented on how the trip is a great way to enter preseason, as the team is with each other all hours of the day, encouraging team unity.
"They did a nice job doing the right things," he said.
Junior Matt Greene and senior Trevor Sharpe look to be the leaders up front this season, netting six goals and three goals, respectively, last year for the Gulls. Greene was second in points last season for Salisbury, behind senior graduate Adrian Tombini, with 14, as Sharpe tallied seven points.
Greene was named 1st team All-CAC in 2011 as a sophomore.
Junior Tanner East comes into the season looking for more minutes at the forward position after playing in six matches in his first year with the Sea Gulls. Salisbury also brings into the mix junior transfer Benjamin Aryeetey and freshman Brad Martinelli, whom have played valuable minutes in the preseason.
"We look, by the start of the season on Friday, to have four very strong forwards," DiBartolo said. "We keep pairing them up depending on the formation we are running."
Returning seniors Jake Perry and Elliott Crompton will look to be the leaders in the midfield this season as both tallied three goals and one assist in 2012, but are not alone on experience. The two are joined by junior Stephen Poorman (two goals, one assist), sophomore Chris Kittelberger (one goal, one assist), sophomore Taylor Groginski (two goals), and sophomore Michael Feeney (one assist).
Also joining the midfield this season is senior Adam Quigley, who will be making the transition from defense. Quigley is not new to this position; recording one goal and one assist last year for Salisbury.
"He has a lot of experience, seeing time there on and off last season," DiBartolo said.
There are a host of new players coming in as well, working hard in preseason for time in the lineup. Some of these players include freshman Billy Fowler and Tyler Andrus and junior Michael Black and sophomore Chris White. Between freshmen, transfers, and returners, the midfield looks to be deep in numbers and very competitive.
On the backside of the field, the defense is strong with seniors Larry Cornish and Chase Humphrey at the helm. Both players were named All-CAC in 2012, as Humphrey was placed on 1st team and Cornish on 2nd.
Joining them is junior Logan Becker who played in all 18 games for the Gulls.
"In terms of experience, they are probably the most experienced group," DiBartolo said. "Those three are as good as any three defenders anywhere in terms of quality, ball skills, and defensibility. "
Looking great in preseason and expected to contribute minutes in the backfield are sophomores Zach Johnson, Danny Maskell and Cy McNeill, as well as juniors Kyle Westbrook and Jeff Byrnes. Westbrook came off an injury last season and is fully healthy and playing very well thus far in preseason.
With freshmen and transfers pushing hard in preseason, the defense looks to be the stronghold for the team.
Salisbury returns two goalkeepers to the squad this season. Sophomore Drew Staedeli was the Gulls third goalkeeper last season, playing in two contests. Junior Nial Krach has rejoined the squad this season after playing on the team in 2011. While both have limited college experience, they both have had plenty of minutes in Spain and in preseason. With the season approaching, "they have both been working really hard to establish themselves in this position," DiBartolo said.
"Going into the first game, this is the most unsettled position of all. It will be a battle all year in terms of performing well in game situations," DiBartolo said.
With the addition of Christopher Newport University, Penn State-Harrisburg, and Southern Virginia University to the CAC this season, there is a lot of competitiveness in the conference.
"I would say this makes the CAC one of the top five conferences in the country," DiBartolo said. "Between York (defending champion), Christopher Newport (regular season champion in USA South conference), ourselves, Frostburg, Mary Washington; I'm not sure if you find five stronger teams in any one conference. Additionally, St. Mary's, Wesley and Marymount have all been extremely competitive and make our conference top to bottom one of the best in the country."
Salisbury is matched up with two preseason-ranked opponents this season. On Sept. 14, they are on the road at No. 14 University of Rutgers-Camden; and later in the season, on Oct. 19, at home against conference-rival No. 9 York (Pa.) College.
The Sea Gulls open their season at home with the Elmer Lord Classic on Aug. 30 and 31 where they will host Manhattanville, Hunter, and St. Mary's College of Maryland.
Overall, the men will play 18 games in the regular season followed by the conference tournament starting on November 2.