Men’s soccer preview: Versatile Bearcats hope for strong seasonTweet
Heading into the 2013 season, head coach Paul Marco is confident that a year’s worth of progress will lead to good results for the Binghamton men’s soccer team. Using the spring season as a building block, the Bearcats enter the fall having improved in all aspects of the game.
“I think everybody is optimistic,” Marco said. “We had a very good preseason and a great spring. The fitness of this team is good. The health of this team is well. The competitive spirit of this team is super. We just got to start playing games.”
A key strength of the team this year is its versatility. Several players are capable of playing more than one position during a match, depending on the situation.
“The versatility within the group is terrific,” Marco said. “I could see players starting in one spot during a game and playing in another spot later in the same game. I think that you will see that in the flow of the game as well as in a tactical change that we have made.”
Senior Marts Reid-Warden, junior Steven Celeste and redshirt freshman Logan Roberts were the top three players up front heading into the preseason. Celeste tied for second on the squad last season with three goals and tied for third with seven points.
Much has changed the past few weeks, however, with several new faces also emerging. Junior Vlad Finn transferred from Mt. St. Mary’s and freshman Alex Varkatzas arrived after a standout career at nearby Elmira Free Academy. Another holdover who could see increased playing time is sophomore Luca Bottoni
“Coming into preseason, we were planning on Logan, Marts and Steven being the key guys penciled in up front,” Marco said. “Then all of the sudden Vlad comes into preseason more fit than we had seen and is doing things that have us looking at him too. Then we add Alex, who has shown great promise and is a terrific goal scorer and is getting better with his movement every day. Add to that Luca, who is always a battler, and we have a lot of options at forward. “
With the versatility of the team, the exact number of players up front could change throughout the match.
“I think you will see us playing with three up front, two up front and at times one up front,” Marco said. “That depends on not just the game, but the situation within the game.”
A big reason for the improvement during the spring came at the midfield line. Marco and his staff spent a great deal of time in developing that line to play more aggressively.
“We have gotten a lot better with our midfielders being able to penetrate the ball,” Marco said. “That was the focus this spring and I think those guys understood it and improved on it.”
Senior Tommy Moon, a three-year starter, is top returning midfielder. When he wasn’t playing in the central midfield position, he started a handful of games at forward in 2012. Junior Ben Nicholson and freshman Charlie Novoth are the other top two central midfielders heading into the season.
Finn is one of several players capable of playing at wide midfield. So too are juniors Derrik Ladeairous and Matt McCoy.
Freshmen Mike Kubik and Lee Manchio are the other top newcomers at midfield.
“I think that Tommy, Ben and Charlie can play centrally,” Marco said. “Vlad can play wide, Derrick can play wide and Matt McCoy can play wide at midfield. I think we have a lot of options for guys to play there. “
Senior Robbie Hughes, who is the team captain, and junior Jamie Forbes are the two returning center backs. Redshirt freshman Connor Nealis has also shown promise at that position. At the wide back positions, Ladeairous, McCoy, Novoth and Bret Celeste are all potential starters.
“I think that Robbie and Jamie have done a good job at the central back positions,” Marco said. “Connor Nealis has come in shown that he can play for us. Derrick, Matt, Charlie and Bret are all guys who are capable of starting for us wide. That competitiveness will come out in the first couple of games.”
Sophomore Stefano Frantellizzi is the top returnee, having started most of last year. He was named to the America East All-Rookie Team at the conclusion of the season. Redshirt freshman Brian LoTempio was injured in 2012 but appears to be coming back into form.
“Stefano has gained a great amount of experience from starting last year,” Marco said. “We did not anticipate him playing as a true freshman and the year of growth has certainly shown in his play. He is more commanding and his reflexes are terrific. We also get Brian back so I think we will have a real battle on our hands for the starting goalkeeping position.”
Binghamton starts its season with games against Virginia Tech, James Madison, George Mason and American, all of whom come from strong soccer conferences (ACC and CAA). Other non-conference road games come against Cornell (Sept. 18), Lafayette (Sept. 21), Syracuse (Oct. 1) and Columbia (Oct. 23). At home, the Bearcats will entertain Buffalo (Sept. 13), St. Peter’s (Sept. 24) and St. Bonaventure (Sept. 27).
“I like our non-conference schedule a lot,” Marco said. “I think it helps us prepare for America East play. It allows us to prepare for opponents who play a similar style to what we will see during conference games.”
America East action starts up Oct. 5 at Vermont. Binghamton will then host UMass Lowell on Homecoming Weekend (Oct. 12). Also at home are games against defending conference champion UMBC (Oct. 26) and Albany (Nov. 6). Road games come against Stony Brook (Oct. 16), Hartford (Oct. 19) and New Hampshire (Nov. 2).
“I say it every year but the America East is always very tight,” Marco said. “Every team can beat another team in the conference on any given day. You can’t have an off day. I am really excited to play this season. I think that everyone in our conference will be quite good.”