The Brandeis men's soccer team is looking to break out of an uncharacteristic three-year post-season drought under head coach Mike Coven, who enters his 38th season in 2010. Despite going 6-10-2 in 2009 (1-5-2 in the UAA), seven of the squad's 10 defeats were one-goal affairs -- including two against association co-champions Rochester and Carnegie Mellon, plus a significant scoreless draw with the third co-champion, Chicago.
The Judges graduated just one regular senior from their starting line-up, but it is a significant loss in midfielder Corey Bradley, the squad's third-leading scorer and a second-team All-UAA selection. The Judges do return a pair of honorable-mention All-Association selections in junior defenders David McCoy and Ari Silver. McCoy anchored the back line, starting 16 of 18 contests in the center, while Silver started all 18 games, mostly on the left. There will be good competition between some returning players and incoming freshman to see who will join McCoy and Silver at the back this season.
"David and Ari really stabilize our defense," Coven says. "They are both strong one-on-one with tremendous leaping ability. Plus, they are terrific with the ball at their feet. The can really help build our offense from the back."
The Judges will have a three-way battle between the pipes between senior Matt Lynch, the starter in 2009, senior Taylor Bracken, who missed his junior campaign due to illness, and sophomore Blake Minchoff. One newcomer who will help the goalies without taking the field is assistant coach Tim Murray. Murray was an All-Big East netminder for Providence College who now serves as the third-string goalkeeper for the New England Revolution of Major League Soccer.
In the midfield, senior Kyle Gross, who had two goals and an assist for five points in 2009, provides experience, but sophomores Joe Eisenbies and Sam Ocel will look to break out with an additional season under their belts. The duo played in all 18 games as rookies, missing just three starts between them. Eisenbies (0-1-1) who played a more defensive role, and Ocel (2-4-8), the team's top returning distributer with four assists last season, will play attacking roles this season.
"Joe and Sam are terrific in the midfield," Coven says. "They are two of the most fit guys on the squad with a great ability to possess the ball along with tremendous field vision."
Brandeis's promising young front line will look to keep improving. Junior Alexander Farr led the squad with seven goals -- including two game-winners - and 14 points, while spohomore Matt Peabody had four goals and a pair of assists in 14 contests. Sophomore Lee Russo played a key role last year for the Judges in both the midfield and up front and he will be looked upon to provide a spark wherever he finds the field, while senior Steve Keuchkarian hopes to provide punch in his final campaign.
"Lee is probably our speediest player," says Coven. "He could play in the midfield or up top, but he will be able to create offense from pretty much anywhere on the field. Steve was the big surprise of our spring games. Offensively, he is tenacious with a high work rate in the attacking third. He is also a great ball striker."
Coach Coven will welcome 10 newcomers to the team this year and is counting on several of them to step into pivotal roles to help the Judges regain their postseason form. Coven, always reluctant to talk up newcomers, did praise central midfielder Theo Terris, a junior transfer from Boston University. The 2007 Boston Globe All-Scholastic Player of the Year when he led Concord-Carlisle High School to the state title, Coven says Terris "can be a special player for us."
Brandeis's schedule is no picnic, with Coven calling it one of the toughest in New England. "Every team in the UAA has NCAA tournament potential," he says.
The Judges open the 2010 season at the adidas Kick-Off Classic at Wheaton (Mass.) College when they take on Rutgers-Camden on Sept. 4 at 2:30 p.m. The home opener is under the lights of Gordon Field on Sept. 11 at 6 p.m. against Clark University, while Case Western Reserve comes to town to open conference play on Oct. 2 at 1:30 p.m. Two nationally-ranked foes are on the Judges' schedule, as they head to sixth-ranked Rochester on Oct. 9 and host No. 11 CMU on Oct. 15.