While the NEC’s men’s soccer preseason rankings are viewed nationwide and are valued by some teams, the RMU men’s soccer team feels that the rankings do not exactly hold all that much merit. The team enters the 2012-2013 season ranked 10th in the NEC out of 11 teams and looks to shock the whole conference with hopes of making the tournament by the end of the season.
“Well it’s the first time ever in fifteen years that we’ve been ranked higher than we finished. So anytime we finish first they usually pick us about fourth. So I guess that’s all right. It’s kind of meaningless,” explained head coach Bill Denniston on the fact of being ranked second-to-last in the conference.
After what many players and students would describe as a dismal season in 2011-2012, the team looks to rebound in the upcoming year after finishing last in the conference with a record of 4-12-1. With several key players returning such as senior goalkeeper Toba Bolaji, last year’s leading scorer Prince Samuels, and juniors Miro Cabrilo and Luca Campos. Also returning are seniors Sam Colosimo, Niko Corado, Michael Jones, Kyle Macaulay, Domonic Mascia, Max Shinsky, and Derek Stein. However, another player who could play a vital role is freshman forward Bruce Cullen from Pickering, Ontario.
“I think this year Bruce will be a real asset to the team. He’s a freshman, he’s going to be underestimated, but he can do a lot of damage,” stated Cabrilo when asked who this year’s unsung hero would be.
The team can be characterized as an attacking team with an aggressive style of play. According to Cabrilo, the team is going to have to fight the whole season as no games, especially the conference games, are going to be easy wins. Perhaps RMU’s biggest rivals are Duquesne and Pittsburgh. The three teams will battle this season to see who is the best team in the Pittsburgh area. As for the best team in the entire NEC, Monmouth is frequently discussed in that conversation.
“We’re blessed enough to be in a conference where you can’t always predict the top four teams. Outside of Monmouth, you can’t always predict. It’s pretty much any teams game. We’re at the point to where it’s whoever wants it more,” commented Bolaji on the breakdown of the NEC this upcoming season.
If the team plans on preforming well this fall, they are going to have to minimize their weaknesses and maximize their strengths as they prepare to rebound from ending last season on a ten game losing streak. Possibly the teams’ strongest aspect is their ability to play as a team and develop a really strong camaraderie throughout the whole locker room, which was made apparent by Bolaji.
“I think one of our strong points right now is that we started off this preseason playing for each other and working together. I’ve been on this team three years now and that’s one thing I wanted to drive home. Actually, it’s probably our strong point and could be our weak point,” said Bolaji. “I think I was trying to bring home the fact that we believe that we can win and we have to go out their confident. So it’s kind of a double-edged sword. Whichever one we come to play with, whichever side we come out to play with,” stated the senior goalkeeper.
As the team looks to begin its march toward the NEC tournament, the guys must take this uphill climb one step at a time. After the first few games, it will turn into a war of attrition, as both Bolaji and Denniston believe that the men’s soccer team has the potential to make it to the NEC tournament with hopes of winning it.