Vol. LXI, No. 35
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
HEADS UP: Princeton University sophomore midfielder Devin Muntz rises above the competition last season as he heads a ball down the field. Muntz, a second-team All-Ivy performer in his debut campaign will look to help the Tigers get more of the bounces as they seek to improve on the 6-8-3 overall and 1-5-1 Ivy record they posted in 2006.
With its old stomping ground of Lourie-Love Field currently being transformed into the state-of-the-art Roberts Stadium, the Princeton University men's soccer team's home this fall will be the field turf at Princeton Stadium.
Coming off a frustrating 6-8-3 season which saw the Tigers go 1-3-3 in seven overtime contests, PU head coach Jim Barlow is hoping the bounces will go his team's way at its temporary home.
"It's a true surface, you can't complain about bad bounces" said Barlow, whose club will get its first crack on the artificial surface this Friday evening when it hosts Loyola (Md.) in the season opener for both squads.
"We have a small team up and down the field with some big guys in the back. We have a lot of guys who are quick and good with the ball; I'm excited to see what they do when they get the ball moving up the field."
The Tigers will need to move more assertively as they look to rebound from a 2006 campaign in which they lost their last three games to plummet to a 1-5-1 record in Ivy League play.
"I think the guys are talking a lot about that and setting the tone for the season," said Barlow, referring to his team's tough finish which included one-goal losses to Harvard and Penn down the stretch.
"One thing they have talked about is our mentality and being 100 percent confident. They have to believe they can get a result whatever the situation is and no matter who we are playing. We are starting the season with a swagger and a confidence; I like seeing that."
In order to maintain that swagger as the season unfolds, Princeton will have to fine tune things on both ends of the pitch.
"One of the soccer things we've discussed is that at crucial times last year we gave up soft goals," said Barlow, whose club topped Mercer County Community College 3-1 and Marist 1-0 in scrimmages last Sunday.
"We gave up goals against the run of play or on lapses in front of the goal. We want to have a stubborn defense that is absolutely stingy. We need more creativity and less predictability on our attack. We're trying to get more goals so there is less pressure on our back line."
Barlow believes that senior co-captain Kyle McHugh can provide a lot of that verve up front.
"Kyle spent the summer in Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Va. and he has come to camp with a different attitude," said Barlow of McHugh who had 10 points last fall on three goals and four assists as he earned second-team All-Ivy recognition.
"He has things in perspective; he's obviously one of our fittest players. In the past, he put a lot of pressure on himself. In practice, he would hit every shot but then we'd see a different Kyle in the games."
Joining McHugh up front will be sophomores Max Hare and Ben Harms, junior Jason Adams, and senior Mike Jester. Barlow also expects freshman Brandon Busch and Iiro Honkanen to see some action at forward.
The Tiger midfield should be paced by the speedy Devin Muntz, a 5-6, 145-pound bundle of energy who led the Tigers in scoring last fall with 11 points on four goals and three assists, joining McHugh as a second-team All-Ivy choice.
"Devin is a confident guy going forward; he had some big goals for us last fall," said Barlow, a former soccer star at Princeton who has compiled a 82-76-31 record with two NCAA tournament appearances in 11 seasons as head coach at his alma mater.
Muntz will be getting help from former Hun School star Matt Care, now a PU junior, and freshman Tim Sedwitz.
"We have had two big surprises so far in the midfield," said Barlow.
"Matt Care got a staph infection at the end of his freshman year and he wasn't the same player last season. He has regained his form. Tim Sedwitz is a freshman and he has looked good. In our scrimmages yesterday, we played Muntz, Care, and Sedwitz in the middle of the field and they looked good."
Others in the midfield mix include seniors Ted Wolfson, Victor Noskov, and David Metcalf together with Busch and Honkanen.
The defense features some battle-hardened veterans. "Robbie Morgenroth and Matt Kontos are seniors, they are looking good and they give us a lot of experience," said Barlow, noting that Kontos is a team captain who is a former honorable mention All-Ivy pick.
Others who should see time along the back line include senior Dan Cummins, junior Pat Farrell, sophomore Danny Steiner, and freshman Ben Burton, a top 2006 recruit who deferred admission to spend a year in Ecuador.
The goalkeeping slot appears to be coming down to a battle between junior Joe Walter and freshman Sean Lynch.
"Walter has done well for us," said Barlow of the 6'0, 200-pound keeper who posted a 1.31 goals against average in seven appearances last fall.
"Sean Lynch looked real good in his four days of college practice. We'll look at both of them."
Barlow is anxious to get his first look at his club as it opens the regular season with familiar foe Loyola.
"It's always a good game with Loyola, we have had back-and-forth games," said Barlow, whose club is playing Loyola for the ninth straight year.
"They always have some special guys who we have to deal with. It's the first game for both of us so there is no scouting report. We are trying to learn about ourselves and deal on the fly with the things they throw at us."
Princeton is hoping to throw some tough things at its Ivy foes this fall.
"I think our guys are really excited to make a run at the league title and a spot in the NCAA tournament," asserted Barlow.
"But we're not looking ahead of anybody. We're just going into each day looking to make the most out of today. We know we can beat anybody on our schedule but we can also lose to anybody if we don't play our best. There is such parity in our league, all eight teams have a shot at the title."
If Princeton can get some good bounces on its field turf, it could emerge as the team that takes advantage of its title shot.
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