Princeton Men's Soccer Heads Into Opener Shooting to Build on Last Fall's Progress
By Bill Alden
The Princeton University men's soccer team made big strides last fall as it climbed to second place in the Ivy League standings, rebounding from a losing season in 2003.
Coming off the encouraging 2004 campaign which saw Princeton post an 8-5-4 overall mark and a 3-2-2 record in Ivy play, the Tigers are shooting to move up one place in the league standings.
This Friday evening, Princeton will get the first chance to show it has a championship caliber side when it hosts Loyola in the season-opener for both teams.
Based on the attitude the team has displayed in the first week of the preseason, Princeton head coach Jim Barlow believes the team could produce a special fall.
"I think they really believe they can do good things," said Barlow, a former Princeton soccer star who is entering his ninth season guiding the Tigers. "It's a talented group and they have developed a special chemistry."
Barlow saw some good things in his club's performance in preseason scrimmages last Sunday against Mercer County Community College and The College of New Jersey.
"The top group looked good against Mercer, they moved the ball really well," said Barlow. "MCCC plays a fast game and I think our back line held up well. Given the short preseason, they looked like a group that has played together for a while."
A key factor in the team coming together so quickly has been the influence of senior star Darren Spicer, the 2004 Ivy League Player of the Year.
"Darren is great, he is a very special player," said Barlow of the Diamond Bar, Calif. native who led the Ivy League last fall in both points (25) and goals (12).
"He is an incredibly hard worker. He makes everyone around him better with the energy and effort he brings to the field everyday."
Barlow is looking for the trio of sophomore Kyle McHugh and seniors Adrian Melville and Ben Young to help energize his side's offense. "Kyle is back from injury, he scored a great goal in the scrimmage," said Barlow. "Melville scored goals for us last year. Ben Young had a very good spring."
In terms of team formation, Barlow is mulling playing McHugh and Melville up front as forwards with the duo of Spicer and Young tucked in behind them in the midfield.
Filling out the rest of the midfield, Barlow is looking at Matt Kontos, a sophomore who played well on defense last season, together with senior Alex Reison, sophomore Ted Wolfson, and junior Zach Schwarz.
The back line should be rock solid with some key veterans returning and some promising new faces emerging. "Neil Chaudhuri has been our outside left back for the last two years and will be playing there again," added Barlow. "Robby Morgenroth played on the outside last year and we're moving him to the the middle this year."
Others in the defensive mix include junior Jame Wunsch, an honorable mention All-Ivy performer last year, together with sophomore Dan Cummins, freshman Pat Farrell and sophomore Scott Callahan, a former Princeton High standout.
The goalkeeper situation is in good hands with senior Bobby Guelich stepping up the the starter's role after backing up Erik White last season.
"He's tall and athletic," said Barlow, referring to the 6'4, 170-pound keeper who hails from Edina, Minn. "He's got good hands and he's real good in traffic."
The Tigers will be facing some heavy traffic this Friday when they host Loyola. "We had ties with them four years in a row before beating them 3-2 last year," said Barlow. "They are hardworking and they have good service into the box. They always have a special forward."
In Barlow's view, opening with a tough foe like Loyola is good preparation for the dogfight the team will face in Ivy play where the league is balanced and a team that finishes in the cellar one year can be the champion the next season.
"Every year the team that gives up the least goals seems to win the title," explained Barlow. "As much as we think we can move the ball, we need to be organized and not give up goals. If we can do that, we can create some good stretches of soccer."