|Men's Soccer Opens 2012 Season Friday|
RIVERDALE, N.Y. - The 2012 Manhattan men's soccer season opens up tomorrow, Friday, Aug. 24, as the Jaspers host BIG EAST rival Villanova at 7:30 p.m. at Gaelic Park. Parking is available in the Manhattan College Broadway garage as construction has forced some closures around the field.
It is the second straight year Manhattan opens with with Wildcats, who reached the BIG EAST Tournament semi-finals a year ago. Villanova was picked fifth in the conference's Red Division after making the NCAA Tournament as an at-large bid in 2011.
Coming off a magical late-season run, the 2012 Manhattan men's soccer team will look to challenge once again for the MAAC Championship.
"Obviously we were very excited with the way the season finished last year," said Head Coach Ashley Hammond, who guided his squad to the MAAC Championship game in 2011. "We plan to win and the fact that we didn't win many games prior to last fall was disappointing. That being said I think last year will help us this year."
Fifteen players return from the squad that reached the conference title game for just the second time in program history. That veteran core will look to mold with nine new faces as the Jaspers look to prove 2011 was just the start of the team's new success.
"Each year we have upgraded our team on the field," noted Hammond. "The guys we have brought in this year give us another upgrade and there isn't one that I wouldn't put on the field for a game at this point."
The majority of scoring is back for the Jaspers this season despite losing Deia Nassar and Trevor Chiduku to graduation. All-MAAC Tournament team member Eugene Heerschap returns for his second year in Riverdale and will be expected to pick up where he left off as a catalyst for the offense.
"Eugene came back in great shape this year and is already banging in the goals in practice," Hammond said. "We've given him some help this year with some upgrades to our striking core that will add in some striking power and ability."
Those additions include returning players Tommy Amos who notched four points in his freshman campaign, including a goal. Naru Park and Isa Konneh look to increase the size in the forward group this year. Park, a 6'4" transfer, is originally from Japan and will have three years of eligibility in Riverdale while the 6'1" Konneh comes to Manhattan after an impressive career at Bloomfield High School in New Jersey.
One of the more veteran groups this fall will be the midfield unit. Juniors Daniel Festa, Carlo Giachino will be joined by second year players Reese Akers, Jake Scavetta, Rob Tedesco, and Andrew Santos.
"Daniel and Carlo played very well for us in the latter parts of the season last year," said Hammond. "Akers has been probably our best player this preseason and we've added some support for them."
Transfer Kevan Lewis joins the Jaspers after two successful years at Monroe Community College. While there, Lewis helped take the team to the NJCAA National Tournament in both years, including a championship game appearance in 2011.
Joining Lewis is a bevy of freshman including Alex Shackley, a Las Vegas native, who owns the Palo Verde High School record for career goals, wins and playoff victories. Josh Binfield, Alex Recinos, and Stefhan O'Connor will also compete for playing time in their rookie seasons.
Although the back line returns a strong number of players, the leadership of graduating senior Christopher Holihan will be the biggest hole at the start of the 2012 season.
"I don't think you can ever replace a guy like Chris, because he was a leader in so many ways," Hammond admitted. "That being said we are delighted with the way our returning players have come in this preseason."
"CJ has come back in great shape and looks fantastic, as does Montinard and Howard," notes Hammond. "We're excited about them and we've brought in some talented players that we believe can really help us."
Eric Mavakala is a transfer from Marshalltown Community College who will help with the back line. The 6'2" junior is originally from France and will battle for a starting role immediately along with freshman Brandon Alvarado.
Another All-MAAC Tournament player returns in goal for the Jaspers as co-captain George Ellis begins his senior year with Manhattan. The Quinnipiac transfer was instrumental in the teams stretch run posting four shutouts, including two in the conference tournament.
Despite his late season success, Ellis will still battle for playing time with junior Christopher Lands. Lands missed the majority of 2011 with a hand injury after just six games. However, the former MAAC All-Rookie is back healthy and will be a factor in 2012.
"We have historically played two or three keepers in non-conference games in the three years that I've been here," Hammond said. "As the non-conference contests unfold we will make a decision as to who will be the number one. The great thing is that the two returners and our incoming keeper have struck a great chord with one another."
Robert Maffei enters his freshman year in Riverdale after a successful high school career at McLean High School in Virginia and also spent some time in the DC United Academy.
Non-conference matchups against foes from the Big East, Pac-12 and Atlantic 10 highlight the 2012 Manhattan College men's soccer schedule, which was announced today. The 18-game slate features six home contests at Gaelic Park, starting with the season opener against Villanova on Aug. 24.
This marks the second straight season Manhattan is opening against Villanova. The Wildcats reached the semifinals of the Big East Tournament last season.
After the season opener, the Jaspers are away from Gaelic Park until Oct. 12. Manhattan plays its next nine contests on the road, starting with the Gonzaga Nike Classic on Aug. 31-Sept. 2. In addition to a matchup with Gonzaga (Aug. 31), the Jaspers take on Pac-12 member Oregon State (Sept. 2) during their trip to the West Coast. Upon returning to New York, the Jaspers visit local rival Columbia on Sept. 5.
Manhattan makes a brief return home for its annual Alumni Game on Sept. 8 before resuming the regular season at Temple three days later. The Jaspers visit St. Francis (NY) on Sept. 21 and Bryant on Sept. 23, then head across town for the annual "Battle of the Bronx" against rival Fordham on Sept. 28. The following weekend, Manhattan opens Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) play with games at Marist (Oct. 5) and Siena (Oct. 7).
On Oct. 12, the Jaspers play their first home game in seven weeks when Iona comes to Gaelic Park. Manhattan posted a memorable 1-0 double-overtime victory over the Gaels in the semifinals of last season's MAAC Tournament in Orlando, Fla. The Jaspers then host Fairfield, the team they lost to in the 2011 MAAC Championship Game, on Oct. 14.
The Jaspers head back on the road for three of their next four, starting with a visit to Saint Peter's on Oct. 20. After concluding non-conference play with a home game against Army on Oct. 23, Manhattan makes its final road trip of the season for matchups with MAAC rivals Rider (Oct. 26) and Loyola (Oct. 28). The Jaspers then wrap up the regular season with a pair of games at Gaelic Park. Manhattan hosts Niagara on Nov. 2 and ends the season against Canisius on Nov. 4. Last season, the Jaspers defeated both the Purple Eagles and Golden Griffs in Buffalo for the first time since 2001.
The MAAC Tournament will be held at Loyola's Ridley Athletic Complex on Nov. 8-10. The tournament reverts to a four-team format this season after all 10 schools participated in 2011.