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(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)

BACK IN STEP: Princeton University junior defender Neil Chaudhuri kicks the ball away from a Harvard player in action last fall. Chaudhuri and his teammates start preseason training this week, resolved to rebound from the disappointing 6-8-3 mark the program posted in 2003. The Tigers open their 2004 campaign on the road with a game at Loyola on September 3 followed by a trip to Akron on September 10.
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Tiger Men's Soccer Enters Preseason Aiming to Make Every Moment Count

By Bill Alden

After struggling through a frustrating season last fall, the Princeton University men's soccer team is primed to hit the pitch this week to start its 2004 preseason.

While the Tigers won't be in action for real until they play at Loyola on September 3, head coach Jim Barlow knows his team needs to hit the ground running.

"The seven-day preseason could make or break us," said Barlow, whose club went 6-8-3 in 2003 as it finished fourth in Ivy League play.

"The question will be how quickly can we get a team shape together and get cohesive defensively. Once we have that down, then we can work on producing goals."

Barlow believes his squad is ready to make the most of every moment of the preseason and beyond.

"I think we realize how fortunate we are to be in this environment," asserted Barlow, an Ivy League Men's Soccer Player of the Year for Princeton in 1990 who is entering his ninth year as the Tiger head coach. "We're not going to take any day for granted this fall."

In Barlow's view, senior captain Teddy van Beuren will play a key role in making sure the Tigers keep their collective nose to the grindstone.

"Teddy is trying to get every guy to work hard and to take more responsibility for preparation and being team players," said Barlow, who acknowledged that his team learned some hard lessons on and off the field in 2003.

"He's an unselfish guy who puts the team first and he just doesn't stop working on the field. When we've been successful in the past, it's when the team has had that unselfish attitude."

The Tigers will need to work together if they are to overcome the lack of goal production that plagued them last fall. In 2003, Princeton scored just 17 goals for the season and was shut out on six occasions.

"Darren Spicer and Adrian Melville will be our key guys up top," explained Barlow, referring to his junior strikers. "They are athletic guys who make plays with their work rate. They don't necessarily create goals on their own so we need the midfield to be the link so we have a more balanced attack. Guys like Teddy, Ryan Rich, and Alex Reison have to step up."

Others who figure in the midfield mix include senior Doug Hare, juniors Ben Young and Sean Paylor, together with sophomores James Honhau and Zach Schwarz.

Despite the loss of All-Ivy defender Jeff Hare to graduation, Barlow has high hopes for his back line. "Jeff was pivotal for us but we had moved him up front by the end of last season," recalled Barlow. "The backs played well, Jame Wunsch, Neil Chaudhuri, and Marc DuBois did fine."

The Tigers' crew of incoming freshmen could make their presence felt along the back line. "We have some big, strong guys coming in who are athletic enough to handle things," maintained Barlow, referring to such newcomers as Matt Kontos, Victor Noskov, and Princeton High alum Scott Callahan.

Another strength of the team should be goaltending where Barlow has the two solid returning veterans in senior Erik White and junior Bobby Guelich.

"Erik and Bobby are big, athletic, and comfortable in the position," added Barlow, whose club surrendered 28 goals last season with White seeing most of the action as he posted a 1.41 goals against average. "Both have a lot of potential. It should be interesting to see how things play out in the preseason."

The Tigers will need to develop quickly in the preseason as they face stiff tests with the game at Loyola and then a date at Akron on September 10.

"Loyola is opening a new stadium and they have tied us the last four years," said Barlow, who enters the fall with a career mark at Princeton of 62-55-21. "Akron is expecting 5,000 people when they play us since they will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of their program that day. They were in the NCAA Sweet 16 last year.

Those kind of challenges should serve the Tigers well as they gird themselves for play in the balanced Ivy League where the margin for error is razor thin.

"There is so much parity in the Ivy League," noted Barlow, whose current crop of seniors started their careers in 2001 by playing on the program's most recent league champion. "You can go for first to eighth and eighth to first in one year."

Barlow, for his part, believes the seniors have helped the squad develop a feeling that could see them end their careers with another title.

"We have a new team spirit," asserted Barlow, who also coached Princeton to the Ivy title in 1999. "The players realize the season is so short and goes so fast. We need to cherish our time together. I think there is a healthy enthusiasm and a real commitment to the team."

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