Bearcats Laid Ground Work For Future During 2011 Season|
Nov. 9, 2011
By Shawn Sell
The results weren't exactly what they were looking for, but the growth and development experienced throughout the year are what University of Cincinnati men's soccer coach Hylton Dayes will take away from the recently completed 2011 season. With a squad made up of just two departing seniors, brighter days certainly lay ahead for the Bearcats.
On paper, the season didn't go as planned as the Bearcats completed the campaign with a mark of 6-11-1 overall and 2-7 in the BIG EAST. But a closer look is required to fully understand what really happened for the Bearcats this fall. What the record doesn't show is that five freshmen started at any given point during the season. It doesn't show that injuries to 2010 all-conference selection Matt Bahner (0 matches played) and top defender Roger Thompson (3 matches played) forced Dayes' hand with inserting younger players regularly into the line-up.
"We started five freshmen at different points during the season and played six or seven new players on the team and we had growing pains," UC's 11th year head man says. "Those guys certainly got a lot of good experience in the league and in college soccer. I think as the season progressed, we saw them continue to develop and towards the end of the season, we saw young players mature and were playing some of their best soccer of the season.
"I think that was evidenced by our final game against St. John's that we won 1-0 on a goal scored by a freshman (Ashani Walker) and assisted on by another freshman (Cole DeNormandie)," Dayes continues. "We definitely toward the end of the season could see them learning and growing as players and not being intimated by playing against tough teams. I think that is part of why we are very optimistic for the future."
As Dayes alluded to, the season-closing triumph over No. 18/11 St. John's put a fine capper on an otherwise disappointing year. The victory was doubly sweet for the program as the Bearcats sent seniors D.J. Albert and Sam Klosertman out on a high-note, while also setting the tone for the off-season and preparation for the 2012 season. Despite the victory, Dayes couldn't shake the disappointment he felt for his departing seniors.
"It was a great way to send our seniors out," he says of the victory. "Those guys have been warriors for us. They have both been guys that have played all four years. It was just a tough senior year for them as far as results and not getting to the BIG EAST Tournament. That game I think, although it won't erase the kind of season we had, certainly was an excellent way to send those guys out against a St. John's team that is in the final four of the BIG EAST Tournament."
The hope for the future lays in a strong class of rising seniors, 12 men strong, including the injured returnees in Bahner and Thompson and a budding group of future stars in an outstanding 2011 freshmen class. The Bearcat newbie's combined to start 63 matches this fall, including all 18 matches by scoring sensation DeNormandie. A highly-touted prep player, DeNormandie did little to disappoint expectations by leading the team in goals (seven) and points (15). Dayes foresees a bright future for the player ranked as the 14th-best freshman nationally by TopDrawerSoccer.com.
"We knew he could score goals and I think he proved that," Dayes says. "I believe he was the second-highest scoring freshmen within our league and he is certainly someone that I think has a very bright future. As he continues to develop, I think he will continue to score goals and be an offensive force for us. We are very encouraged by that."
In spite of a disappointing final record, Dayes is encouraged by how the 2011 season closed and the prospects for his program going forward. With just a small class facing graduation, the Bearcats should be ready to bounce back into the familiar territory of battling for a BIG EAST Division Championship next fall.
"For us, it is something to build on. There are no moral victories and one game doesn't change the season," Dayes says of the win over St. John's. "But for our guys, it was kind of a validation (to them) that they can win in the league against quality teams. This is a good way for us to finish off the season and hopefully be a bridge as we look to prepare for next season. It's a good way to finish things up on a positive note and also to give the guys belief that you can win and you can beat good teams in our league."