Aug. 2, 2000
Head coach Ed Kelly expects bigger and better things from his 2000 team. Loosing only three players to graduation, the team returns its top eight scorers and nine of the team's 10 '99 point-getters. The 1999 season saw the team earn six wins, the most since 1995, and the emergence of a talented young offensive corps.
"We lost several close games throughout the year (last year), especially a couple of 1-0 losses on the road," Kelly says. "Those losses were mainly due to our youth. This year's team is more focused and is taking every game one-game-at-a-time."
The Eagles also gained a strong home-field advantage with the move to their new home, the Soccer Fields at Newton Campus.
"The new complex did wonders for the team. Not only has it helped us in attracting the best local talent and great regional recruits, but it also elevated the attitudes and mindsets of the returning players. They are proud to play on a such a fantastic playing surface in front of a legitimate home crowd," Kelly says.
The Eagles were undefeated in non-conference action in 1999, going 4-0-2. In conference play, Kelly's crew managed two wins and played tough against some of the nation's best teams.
"We competed well last year, considering we were so young. That learning experience will make us a very competitive team in 2000."
Along with the strong freshman class, Kelly also welcomes another newcomer, assistant coach Keiron O'Brien, who returns to his alma mater to work with Kelly.
Senior starter Chris Hamblin will be the team's mainstay in goal. The team's 2000 winner of the McElroy Award for excellence in soccer posted a 1.22 goals against average in 16 contests in 1999 and earned a career-high six wins. Playing in all but 121 minutes, Hamblin made 64 saves and recorded 4.5 shutouts.
"Chris will be counted on a lot this season, both in play but also in leadership. He's one of the best, if not the best, goalkeeper in the BIG EAST."
Several players could vie for the title of Hamblin's backup. Senior John O'Halloran, and freshmen Greg Bertleff and Danny Caruso will compete for the position. O'Halloran saw action in two games - making one start - in 1999. He faced six shots, saving three, in a loss to Seton Hall. Bertleff is a highly-ranked prospect from Dayton, Ohio, while Caruso arrives at the Heights via Wake Forest University where he sat out the 1999 season.
In 1999, captains junior Paul Bourke and senior Paul Cornoni, cleared the backfield and coordinated with Hamblin to allow just 1.3 goals per game. This season, Kelly will retry his success with strong leadership in the backfield by naming Bourke and converted midfielder Kevin Boyd team captains.
Bourke will anchor a defensive unit that lost two mainstays, Cornoni and Andrew Stein, to graduation. With Stein, the three backfielders calmed the opponents' offensive pressure on Hamblin and maintained an even temper on the field.
This year, Bourke will be looked upon to once again keep an even keel on the field, while serving as an on-the-field mentor to a young nucleus of players.
"Paul provided strong play and outstanding on-the-field leadership last year. We'll be looking for him to again anchor the defenders," Kelly says. In addition to strong defensive play, Bourke can also be counted on to jump into the offensive rush as evidenced by his three assists in 1999.
Joining the Cork, Ireland native will be co-captain Kevin Boyd. For three years, Boyd was one the team's leading scorers from the midfield. In spring practice, when the need for veteran play and leadership in the backfield was evidenced, Kelly moved Boyd into the role.
"The decision to move Kevin into the backfield was largely based on his leadership abilities. The backfield will be young, and his contributions will be an important part of our success."
Chris Powell, a transfer from Florida International University, and fellow newcomer Kenny Adams, a freshman from Fayetteville, Ga., will also compete for starting roles. Veterans Martin Cantillo, who Kelly says, "had a very good spring season," could also work his way into the lineup. Junior Bryan Rose, who joined the team midway through the 1999 season, also returns.
"Sjur Gundersen is a midfielder who has excellent defensive abilities, giving us the option of moving him back if we need a little more depth in the backfield," the head coach says.
The Eagles' midfield unit returns strength and depth. Junior Chris Cleary, the team's second-leading scorer and leading setup man in 1999, returns to anchor a quicker and shiftier unit. With two goals and four assists, Cleary often was one of the team's most visible threats - a role he'll be counted on to repeat in 2000.
Joining Cleary, Gundersen and second-year player Bobby Thompson will provide the experience and leadership to the group of players Kelly regards as his most deep. Gundersen, from Grimstad, Norway, started all 16 games he played in last year adding an assist, while providing a physical presence on the field. He also brought a strong defensive mindset to the field. Thompson stepped in during his first season and added spunk and speed to the attack. Scoring one goal and adding three assists, the Framingham, Mass. native served as an additional threat in an already strong midfield.
Another who will see action will be freshman Kirt Dorsett, a native of Trinidad. "Kirk is very skillful and attack-minded. He has a strong nose for the goal and will complement Cleary and Thompson.
"We have a strong and deep midfield contingent. There will be a lot of competition for time," Kelly says. Seniors Jorgen Lie, Josh Rollins and Knut Espen Skaug, along with sophomore Jonathan Munko, will bring speed and perseverance to the midfield."
In 1999, Casey Schmidt stepped right in and was an instant freshman sensation. Named to the BIG EAST All-Rookie team with 11 goals and two assists, Schmidt added a much-needed offensive shot to the Eagles. Coupled with Cleary, the two combined as formidable one-two punch on the front line with speed, intensity and power. Playing off each other, the players provided explosive rushes and scoring threats from the first games of the season. In 2000, Kelly will look for the two to continue their aggressive play and 'to the goal' mentality.
"Those two players will again be the centerpieces to the offensive scheme. There's not much that can stop Casey and we'll be looking for him to have a bigger year than his great freshman season. "
Two freshmen will see significant playing time right away. Local product Adam Pfeifer from Newton, Mass. was the Massachusetts State Player of the Year. "Adam brings tremendous speed. He has a drive for the net and knows how to bury his chances. He's going to have an immediate impact on this program," Kelly says.
The other freshman who Kelly will be looking for to make an instant impression is Ramon Smith who hails from Brockton, Mass. via Jamaica. "Ramon is very quick and has a nose for the goal. He'll get a very early look for a starting role." Kelly adds, "Both players also give us an added option to move them to the midfield and greatly increase our overall team speed and depth."
Others who will compete for playing time include seniors Brian Mollo and John McCann. Mollo made four starts in eight games in 1999 after returning from an injury-plagued 1998 season, while McCann saw action in five games.
The 2000 season will see the Eagles play the usual round of BIG EAST foes, but Kelly has added three Ivy League opponents as well as cross-town rival Boston University.
Kelly's team will open the season on September 1 with a home match against Stony Brook, followed by the tilt with the BU Terriers on the third. The Eagles then play five BIG EAST matches before traveling to Harvard and Dartmouth to open October. Six more BIG EAST contests fill October before the Eagles close out the regular season on Halloween with a home match against Brown.
"We competed well last year, despite our inexperience. We started and played five or six freshman in every game throughout the season. Our nucleus saw many different game situations that can only prepare them for this season," Kelly says. "We had an outstanding spring practice and it gave a lot of players the opportunity to improve in weak areas, prove themselves and display their hidden talents and potential.
"We have a very solid corps coming back. I'm looking forward to 2000. Our goal is to earn a place in the BIG EAST Championships. But our biggest goal is to surprise a few teams and sneak into the top-four to earn a home-field berth in the opening round. This team can do that, as evidenced by their hard work and grit. Now it's just a matter of parlaying that effort onto the field. I'm counting on our 11 seniors to step up and lead the way into a new era of Boston College soccer."