Navy Looks to Carry Momentum From 2011 Into 2012 Season
Aug. 22, 2012
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- The Navy men's soccer team finished the 2011 season with a flurry and hopes to carry that momentum into the 2012 season, which officially kicks off Saturday at No. 23-ranked Old Dominion. Hopes are high as 16 letterwinners and eight starters return from last year's team that reached Navy's first Patriot League Tournament since 2001 and finished fourth in the league standings with a 3-2-2 league record and a 7-7-5 overall mark.
The Midshipmen return 88.0 percent (22-of-25) of their goal scoring from a year ago and 83.6 percent (56-of-67) of their overall point production as well as three starting defensemen. The addition of several talented newcomers will only strengthen and deepen the Navy lineup this fall. The squad was picked fourth in the preseason Patriot League poll behind Colgate, American and Lehigh.
Leading the charge up front will be senior David Jackson, junior Alex Wilson and sophomore Joseph Greenspan. The trio combined for 12 goals and five assists (29 points) a year ago with each of them contributing at least seven points. Jackson was the team's leading scorer a year ago, ranking fifth in the Patriot League with 14 points (6 g, 2 a). Greenspan, a huge target that stands 6-5, 202 pounds, added four goals for eight points and Wilson tallied seven points on two goals and three assists.
Patrick Sopko and Dave Arnold return for their junior seasons after giving the team added depth last season. As freshmen, the duo combined for 22 points (8 g, 6 a) in 2010, but added just three points (1 g, 1 a) a year ago. Sopko gives head coach Dave Brandt an aggressive, hard-working forward in the front, while Arnold adds size, standing 6-2, 179 pounds.
The only returning starter in the midfielder is junior Guy Skord but the Midshipmen shouldn't miss a beat at the position. Skord tallied five points (2 g, 1 a) while logging almost 1,300 minutes a year ago in 18 games played. He scored one of Navy's biggest goals of the season in a 1-0 victory over Army and provides excellent fitness and conditioning in the midfield slot.
Four other letterwinners return at midfield after all playing at least 340 minutes a year ago. Seniors Eric Wootten (1 g) and Eric Skogerboe and sophomores Geoff Fries and Grant Valenstein (1 g) will push for starting time and will give Brandt beneficial midfield depth. Skogerboe and Wootten have played in a combined 94 games adding some much-needed experience. Skogerboe has played in 53 career games and will near the school record for career games played (71) by the end of the season.
Sophomore Donny Burton (5-9, 149) provides excellent fitness and will compete for playing time in the midfield.
Navy's deepest position on the field may be in the back where three starters return and another returns after an excellent rookie season.
A trio of juniors, Zach Davis (1 g, 1 a), Martin Sanchez (1 a) and Blake Busse (3 a) anchored last year's back line, all playing at least 1,200 minutes on the season. All three of them have essentially started together the two previous years at the Academy and know what is expected out of a Brandt-coached defense. In addition, sophomore Michael Lemonick returns after starting the last five games of the season a year ago, a stretch in which Navy went 3-0-2 by allowing just two goals while making its final push for the Patriot League Tournament. Lemonick, however, is coming off a leg injury in the spring but is now starting to round back into shape.
Nick Dubee (3 g) was moved from forward to defenseman in the spring and has acclimated himself nicely, according to Brandt. Dubee gives the Midshipmen great speed and skill in the back and he will be counted on significantly this fall.
Freshmen Derek Vogel (6-3, 200), Michael Parker (6-0, 176) and Sawyer Gilmore (6-2, 176) will also battle for time in the back. All three come in with impressive credentials from powerful high school programs. Vogel is one of the most-decorated recruits in Navy soccer history as he was one of 24 players nationally to be invited to the United States U-20 National Team back in April while Parker won a NSCAA High School National Championship at DeMatha Catholic High School in 2011. All three of them will be counted on for added depth and will only strengthen the position for this fall and beyond.
With the absence of two-year starter and junior Aaron Dupere, the goalkeeper position is wide open this fall. Dupere had hip surgery last spring and while a full recovery is expected, he is likely to miss the entire 2012 season.
Senior Max Renaldo filled in for Dupere late in the season a year ago and responded with a 0.35 GAA, a .905 save percentage and two shutouts, mostly coming in the last four games of the season. However, Renaldo had a minor procedure done on his back in late July and has not seen much action this fall in preseason camp and scrimmages.
Junior Gavin Snyder played in two games last year, starting the season opener against VCU.
Two freshmen, Jackson Morgan and Ward Gavin, will also compete for the starting spot. Morgan prepped at St. Ignatius High School outside of Cincinnati and was a member of the 2010 NSCAA High School National Championship team. Gavin was a standout keeper in North Carolina, being ranked as a top 20 recruit in the Southeast Region by TopDrawerSoccer.com(.)
Navy's 2012 schedule should be a challenging one right from the outset. The Midshipmen will open with Old Dominion, a team that is ranked in the top 25 (as high as No. 13) in all of the major polls, reached the NCAA Tournament's second round last year and boast one of the top offenses in the country led by Tim Hopkinson and Hermann Trophy semifinalist Yannick Smith. The duo combined for 62 (26 g, 10 a) of ODU's 133 points last fall as the team tallied 48 goals in 20 games, ranking second in the country in scoring offense a year ago. The Monarchs were selected to win the competitive CAA race this year.
On Sept. 1, the Midshipmen will host the Atlantic 10's newest member, VCU. The Rams were 11-9-0 last year but were picked third in the preseason Atlantic 10 race, a conference that featured last year's NCAA runner-up, Charlotte. The Rams topped Navy, 4-1, in last year's season opener.
On Sept. 8, the Mids host High Point, a squad that scored 36 goals in 21 games a year ago while finishing with a 9-9-3 overall mark. The Panthers were picked second in the Big South Conference race behind Coastal Carolina.
Navy will also take on a Delaware team (Sept. 12) that reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament before bowing out to UCLA, 1-0. Delaware was picked third in the CAA race.
Other non-conference opponents include Robert Morris (picked 10th in NEC; 4-12-1 last year), Richmond (picked 14th in A-10; 5-12-1 last year), George Mason (picked 6th in CAA; 7-8-3 last year), Pittsburgh (picked 7th in Big East Blue Division; 4-13-1 last year), UMBC (picked 4th in America East; 7-8-3 last year), Longwood (picked 8th in Big South; 11-6-3 last year) and Howard (3-13-2 last year).
# GO NAVY #