Men's Soccer Looking for Firepower in 2013|
Aug 15, 2013
The last time Hylton Dayes led the University of Cincinnati men's soccer program into a new conference, it took just one season before the Bearcats had a league title and found themselves back in the NCAA Tournament. In his 13th season at the helm of the UC soccer team, Dayes will look for similar success as the landscape changes once again.
Season one in the American Athletic Conference will feature a mix of familiar foes like Connecticut and South Florida to go along with new faces such as Temple and SMU. While there will be some unknown, Dayes built a nonconference schedule that will not only prepare UC to face various styles of play, but also position the squad to return to the NCAA Tournament.
"The nonconference is used to prepare us for our conference schedule," Dayes explained. "It's really important to play good competition and different styles of play, as well as play some games at home and on the road to simulate what you're going to get in the league. The second thing is it's important that the schedule is strong enough to help your case to be an at-large team to the NCAA. If you play quality teams that have a good RPI and get some results against them, that will bolster your resume."
Dayes also stressed the importance of participating in an in-season tournament, not only to prepare for the feel of the postseason, but also to build chemistry.
"You always want to play in an in-season tournament," the coach explained. "It's really good for your team early. It really brings them together, plus it gives you a look at some out-of-region teams you don't normally play."
Following a pair of exhibition contests versus Michigan and at Bowling Green, the Bearcats will open the season at the Bert and Iris Wolstein Soccer Classic, hosted by Ohio State, Aug. 30-Sept. 1. UC will lift the lid on the season by facing Northern Illinois on Friday, before playing UNC Wilmington on Sunday. UC then returns home to host the Bearcat Soccer Classic, Sept. 6-8. The first day will see Northern Illinois face Evansville, while UC will take the pitch against Saint Louis. Sunday's action will see SLU vs. NIU before UC takes on the Purple Aces. The schedule will also see the Bearcats visit SIU-Edwardsville (Sept. 13) and host Northern Kentucky (Sept. 18), before the first American contest on Sept. 21 versus Memphis. The nonconference slate will also include hosting crosstown rival Xavier on Sept. 25, a trip to Cleveland State on Oct. 2 and home games versus IUPUI (Oct. 16) and Belmont (Oct. 19).
As for conference play, Dayes looks at the new squads in the league and sees an opportunity.
"We look to do just as we did going into the BIG EAST," he says. "To compete in the league. With the new conference, some new teams, it's a clean slate. You might not know much about them, but they might not know much about you either. It's a new thing for all of us, so you prepare your team to compete as best you can and as coaches we try to make sure we have as much information as we can on these teams."
After the American opener with Memphis on Sept. 21, UC will also host Central Florida (Sept. 28), SMU (Oct. 12) and Louisville (Oct. 23). Road league games will come at Rutgers (Oct. 5), South Florida (Oct. 9), Connecticut (Oct. 26) and Temple (Nov. 2). The American Athletic Conference Tournament will begin with a play-in game on a campus site on Friday, Nov. 9, before the quarterfinals are also played on campus sites Nov. 9. The semifinals and finals will be held Nov. 15-17, at FC Dallas Stadium in Frisco, Texas, home of Major League Soccer's FC Dallas.
Looking toward his own squad, the number one priority for Dayes entering the season is finding goal scorers.
"We need to score more goals," Dayes said. "Last year we scored 12 goals in 19 games. That's not good enough."
UC returns just one of those 12 goals from last year in sophomore John Manga (Lexington, Ky./Henry Clay).
"We need (Manga) to become a goal scorer," Dayes said, succinctly.
To make up for the losses on offense, Dayes added what he hopes will become a potent group of goal scorers. That includes a pair of freshman from overseas in Brad Miguel (High Wycombe, England/Amersham & Wycombe College) and Calvin Opperman (Aukland, New Zealand/Saint Kentigern College), as well as transfer Alan Rovira (Simi Valley, Calif./Tyler Junior College/Simi Valley).
"We've added some really dynamic goal scoring," Dayes explained. "Brad Miguel is a proven goal scorer. He plays up top and is a proven forward, but he's also very, very good around the goal. Calivin Opperman is an attacking midfielder who can create goal scoring chances and is good off dead balls. Alan Rovira is left-footed and plays wide. He's a good flank player and can serve balls well and take players on. We think he's going to be a guy who can take chances for us."
Dayes is also pleased to add someone of Rovira's pedigree. The Californian won a national championship last season at Tyler Junior College, scoring 12 goals.
The Bearcats will look to some familiar faces to create the attack, including midfielders like Will Diebold (Coppell, Texas/Jesuit College Prep), Emmanuel Appiah (Westerville, Ohio/Westerville Central), Peter Janelli (Springfield, Pa./Springfield) and Matt Remaley (Highlands Ranch, Colo./Mountain Vista). He also pointed to freshmen Rantz Bourgeois (St. Amant, La./St. Amant) and Mark Simpson (Lauderhill, Fla./Pine Crest) as people who could factor into the attack during the season.
"We've brought in enough options to give us a little more balance," Dayes says. "You add in the other guys that are here, like Will Diebold, like Emmanuel Appiah, and the two seniors. Peter Jannelli who played wide right and can play wide left and is good for a few goals, and Matt Remaley, another on the right side. Hopefully, we can not just pick up the slack, but if we can get a goal and a half per game, or double our scoring output, that's going to give us a chance to win more games."
Dayes will also look for sophomore Johnathan Cottrell (Dubai, United Arab Emirates/Dubai College) and junior Ashani Walker (Kingston, Jamaica/Jamaica College), to contribute in the midfield. Walker started seven of his first eight collegiate games last season before breaking his foot.
"We think (Cottrell) is going to be a great holding midfielder for us," said Dayes. "(Appiah) can see a lot of time in a holding midfield spot as well. Ashani Walker is going to figure in. He was the high school player of the year coming out of Jamaica. We feel like we've got five or six central midfielders that at the end of the day can get the job done for us."
Defensively, Dayes is extremely confident in his core group that is highlighted by senior captain Michael Millay (Orland, Fla./Dr. Phillips) and 2012 BIG EAST All-Rookie selection Richardo Israel (Free Town, Jamaica/Lennon), while sophomore Gabriel Robinson (Easton, Pa./LaSalle) will add versatility to the group.
"We expect great things out of (Millay) and Richardo Israel is a great ball winner and great center back who has excellent pace and is great at winning balls," Dayes said. "Gabe started at left back last year, but can play left or right back."
The backs will be fortified by freshmen Malik Morgan (Round Rock, Texas/Stony Point) and Sam Revercomb (Charleston, W.Va./Charleston Catholic).
"(Morgan) is left-footed, can get up and back very well and has a great engine."
At keeper, UC returns redshirt senior captain Taylor Hafling (Louisville, Ky./Male/New Mexico), who played every minute in net last season, posting a 1.09 goals against average and .788 save percentage. Hafling had a six-game shutout streak during the year, over which UC won four contests while drawing two. Dayes will look to three keepers to push Hafling. Redshirt freshman Alex Gill (Beavercreek, Ohio/Beavercreek) was the back-up last season, while redshirt sophomore Robert Hasselfeld (West Chester, Ohio/Lakota West) was the back-up two seasons ago. UC also adds local freshman Pedro Diaz (Mason, Ohio/Mason) to the mix.
"(Hafling) is the incumbent and has really good experience," Dayes said. "He played really well for us last year, especially during the six-game streak without giving up a goal, and he had a great summer playing with the River City Rovers in the PDL in Louisville. We feel pretty comfortable with the goalkeeping situation and we're looking for consistency there where one guy can have his name called on a game-by-game basis."
Dayes was quick to point out that while Hafling is the favorite, he expects competition.
"You expect it to be Taylor and it's his job to lose, but one of the things we're going to preach in preseason is competition," he said. "We have to feel you give us the best chance to win and that goes for any position."
When looking at the full squad that will take the pitch in 2013, Dayes can point to three keys. The Bearcats must remain healthy, integrate their dozen newcomers with the returning players and get off to a fast start.
"We have to stay injury free," said Dayes. "Last year, we lost a ton of minutes to injuries, so we have to keep people on the field. We have to find a good balance between the new players coming in and performing and the returning guys picking up where they left off, which is critical. The third thing is we have to get off to a good start. If you get yourself in a hole early with young players, it affects their confidence and affects the persona, so we've got to get off to a good start."
The Bearcats will have a chance to do just that when they play the first of two exhibition matches on Monday, August 19, against Michigan. The contest will begin at 4:00 p.m. at Gettler Stadium and admission is free. Season tickets for the 2013 season start at just $10 and are still available by calling 1-877-CATS-TIX or clicking here.