Season Preview: Sea Gulls look to experience in chase for Conference Championship

SALISBURY, Md. – The Salisbury University men's soccer team begins the 2012 season with one main goal in mind: Win the Capital Athletic Conference championship. The Sea Gulls are returning most of their contributing players, including 10 starters, from a team that finished the 2011 season with a record of 13-3-4 and 7-1 in the CAC. The team is looking to win the conference and earn the CAC's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008.

Head Coach Gerry DiBartolo, entering his 31st season with the team, said that the players have their eyes set on winning the program's eighth CAC title which would send the Gulls to the NCAA tournament for the eleventh time.

"Our number-one goal is to win the conference championship," DiBartolo said. "We have not won that for three years now so, I think, all of the returning players have set that for their primary goal." 

Forwards

Salisbury is returning a deep and talented group of forwards that includes last season's top-two leading scorers. Sophomore Matt Greene and junior Trevor Sharpe look to be the team's starting forwards this season after leading the Gulls with nine and eight goals last season, respectively. Greene led the team with 20 points as he also had two assists, and Sharpe also registered an assist to finish with 17 points.

Sharpe is one of the five players from 2011 that were named to the All-CAC team. He was one of four named to the first team.

Seniors Phil Bucheimer and Adrian Tombini look to help bolster the Sea Gull attack this season as DiBartolo has been impressed with their play coming into the 2012 season.  He said that they are amongst a group of players that have "come into camp and done great things." 

Last season both players contributed to the Sea Gull offense as Bucheimer netted two goals and registered four assists for eight points. Tombini also scored two goals to finish with four points in 2011.  Transfer Tanner East and freshman Taylor Groginski have also been impressive during the preseason camp.

Midfielders

The midfield is one of the positions where the Sea Gulls return all four starters from last season. Two-time first team All-CAC selection Jimmy Mundy, a senior, returns this year after starting all 19 games in 2011. Mundy finished the year with three goals and two assists for eight points.  His central midfield partner, senior Jeremy Moyer, was a stalwart last season in holding down the center of the field and is expected to have an outstanding senior season.

Fellow senior Pat Callahan and junior Jake Perry provide experience and depth at the outside midfield position. Callahan returns after starting 19-of-20 games last season and registering five points with one goal and three assists, while Perry played in all 20 matches last season and registered one goal and two assists.

"I think there is a lot of experience on the field," DiBartolo said. "They have a pretty good rapport and knowledge of one another."

Returning players Elliott Crompton (2 goals), Stephen Poorman (1 goal) and Nick Buric (1 goal) provide depth in the midfield area and will be counted on to contribute immediately.  A strong group of first-year players (Ramadan Bayyan, Michael Feeney, Chris Kittleberger, and Josh Palin) have been very impressive in camp and should provide valuable minutes throughout the season.

Defenders

The Sea Gulls are also returning all four defensive starters from a 2011 unit that only allowed 13 goals in 20 games last season and ranked among the national leaders in goals against average, goals allowed and shutouts. The group held opponents to 204 shots, as well, which was less than half of the total shots that the Salisbury offense attempted against its opponents.

Among the players returning are two All-Conference players in juniors Larry Cornish and Chase Humphrey. Along with leading the team's defensive unit, both players contributed on the offensive end, as well.  Cornish finished 2011 with two goals and one assist while Humphrey chipped in with three goals and one assist.  Cornish was also honored as an NSCAA All-Region player for his efforts last year.

Seniors Kyle Simmons and Nate Woods are returning from 2011 to the outside spots on the starting defense.  Coach DiBartolo indicates that "the pair has been outstanding in defending the wide spaces on defense and provides tremendous stability and confidence to the defensive effort."

"It is a team that gave up very few goals last year," DiBartolo said. "I think that there is a lot of experience on defense this season and hopefully it will allow us to limit our opponents' goal opportunities".

Junior Adam Quigley and sophomores Kyle Westbrook and Jeff Byrnes are in the group that has come into camp pushing for minutes and are expected to see more playing time in 2012.  Additionally, transfer Logan Becker and freshmen Zach Johnson and Matt Quirk had an outstanding preseason camp and should provide additional depth throughout the season.

Goalkeepers

Senior John Vnenchak is coming back in 2012 as the team's starting goalkeeper after finishing 2011 with a 9-3-4 record with 15 starts in 16 games. Vnenchak was named to the All-CAC first team for his performance last season.

Junior Michael Nerud has been an outstanding player with an unbelievable work ethic and will provide valuable depth to the position.  Junior Nial Krach and freshman Drew Staedeli round out a highly skilled and talented goalkeeping group that will provide needed depth throughout the season.

"Our goalkeeping unit continues to be one of our strengths and should be a tremendous asset throughout the season" DiBartolo said.

Schedule

"I think that our schedule is one of the most competitive schedules that we have had in a number of years," said DiBartolo. "We play in two very demanding, opening season tournaments to start the schedule and then our non-tournament series of matches are all against very difficult opponents.  We will need to be ready for the challenge that every game brings us."

The Sea Gulls open their schedule with the Elmer Lord Classic on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 where they will host Penn St.-Altoona, Richard Stockton and St. Mary's College of Maryland.

The Gulls' schedule includes two teams ranked in the top 15 as they travel to No. 13 Christopher Newport on Oct. 10 and host No. 4 Rutgers-Camden three days later on Oct. 13. Both teams were in the NCAA tournament last season.

The other NCAA tournament team on the schedule for Salisbury is CAC-foe York (Pa.) College.

In all, the team plays 17 games on the season followed by the conference tournament starting on Oct. 28.

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