Men's Soccer |
Aug. 22, 2006
An experienced and committed Bearcat men's soccer team will take the field this fall in search of a BIG EAST Championship and a return to the NCAA Tournament. UC will depend on a pair of dangerous forwards, a veteran midfield, a solid group of defenders and an all-conference goalkeeper to pilot the Bearcats to the NCAA College Cup for the first time since 2003.
"We have a pretty good understanding of how the pieces are going to fit," head coach Hylton Dayes, who enters his sixth season at the helm of UC soccer, said of the 2006 squad. "Our depth has improved from last year and we will have more options than we did last year."
All-American candidate Omar Cummings, who earned first team All-BIG EAST and first team All-Region honors in 2005, returns to lead a potent UC attack. Cummings, a senior native of Jamaica, scored seven goals and handed out a team-best seven assists last season and is the Bearcats' most consistent attacking player.
Along with Cummings, third team All-BIG EAST selection Kenny Anaba returns after leading the team with nine goals and tying for fifth in the conference with 21 points. The junior from Columbus will strive to be more consistent and give UC one of the most lethal forward combinations in the conference an d possibly the country.
Joining the two all-conference picks is sophomore Dominic Oppong, who saw action in 17 matches last season and scored the game-winner against Wright State in UC's regular season opener. Patrick Baxter, a native of Cincinnati, is the wild card in the forward mix. The junior college transfer scored 27 goals in 19 games last season for Cincinnati State and has played with Cummings at the junior college level.
Four starters return in a veteran midfield that will look to create more scoring opportunities this season. Senior Sam Miller, a second-year captain, will man the central midfield position and be counted on for leadership. Classmates Kwame Sarkodie and Mike Dwyer have the ability to provide scoring punch from the midfield. Dwyer scored four goals and tallied three assists last season. Sarkodie spent much of his time in the back, but has the versatility to play nearly any position on the field and gives UC a left-sided attacking threat to create matchup problems for opposing defenses. Noah Davidson played in all 18 matches, accounting for one goal and one assist.
Also in the mix for playing time will be freshmen Alex Marrello, Marcus Hairston, Paul Hoste and Scott Kunze. All four have the ability to contribute right away. Marrello is a play-making central midfielder that will have the opportunity to see regular time. Hairston is an athletic, speedy attacker who could become a scoring force. Hoste and Kunze are technically sound players with the ability to become good college players.
An experienced group of defenders return, led by central defender Amir Ikner. Ikner has started 30 straight matches for the Bearcats and is UC's toughest defender. Center back Brad Simpson had a breakthrough season as a redshirt freshman in 2005 and continued his development with an outstanding spring season. The size and athleticism of the two, will allow them to be dangerous on corner kicks and set pieces. Kevin Schrand also returns at right back after starting 17 matches and collecting three assists last year. Returning after missing the 2005 season due to an injury, Lionel Jackson had an impressive spring season and gives the Bearcats an offensive-minded option at the left back position. He will compete with walk-on Kidus Tadele and newcomers Judson McKinney and Luke Henke for the starting job. McKinney comes from one of the top club programs in Ohio and his versatility will allow him to see time early. Henke is an intelligent player, a solid defender, and a hard worker.
All-conference performer and third-year captain Mike Vessells returns for his senior season. He started all but one match in 2005 and held a 1.22 goals against average and posted three shutouts. The Cincinnati native has an opportunity to be an All-BIG EAST performer and could move his way up the career shutout list this fall. John-Michael Boggs will push Vessells for time between the pipes. The junior has the ability to start and is a tremendous insurance policy as a backup keeper. Freshman Matthew Williams comes highly regarded from the state of Maine. At, 6-4, he has the size and skill to be a BIG EAST-caliber goalkeeper and he will figure into the mix this fall.
The Bearcats will take on some of the college soccer elite both in conference play and in non-league action as UC battles six 2005 NCAA qualifiers. The highlight of the non-conference schedule is the SMU Marriott Invitational tournament in which the Bearcats will take on host SMU, a 2005 NCAA semifinalist, and Florida International. Rivalry matches against Xavier (road) and Louisville (home) will offer fans a chance to see passionate battles. The league schedule includes home dates with Notre Dame, USF and Rutgers.
The Final Word
"Our philosophy is always to put the 11 guys that play best together on the field and present problems for the other team," Dayes said. "We have asked our team to be committed to winning a BIG EAST Championship and playing in the NCAA Tournament. That is our theme for the season; be committed."