Aug. 23, 2012
WEST POINT, N.Y. -
The Army men's soccer program will look to take another step in the right direction this season under third-year head coach Russell Payne. The Black Knights' win total has increased dramatically since Payne took over the reins of the program prior to the 2010 campaign, and the future remains bright for a young squad that is chockfull of talent.
After leading Army to three wins in his inaugural season, Payne had the precocious Black Knights just one win away from their first Patriot League Tournament appearance since 1996 last fall.
Army finished the 2011 season with a 7-10-1 overall mark, posting its highest win total since the 2007 squad recorded nine wins. In fact, the seven victories by the Black Knights equaled the number of wins accumulated by the program over the previous three seasons combined.
The Black Knights were recognized following the season as Jeff Pickett and Josh Koeppe were both named to the 2011 All-Patriot League second team. It marked the first time since 2006 that Army produced two all-conference selections.
Koeppe, who will serve as the team captain this fall, is looking to improve upon the numbers he put up as a junior last season (four goals, 10 points).
The Black Knights also return senior forward Trent Brown, who listed among the team's scoring leaders with three goals and two assists.
The Army defense, which limited the opposition to 1.61 goals per game and recorded three shutouts a year ago, will be buoyed by the return of sophomore goalkeepers Winston Boldt and John Marinelli. The duo excelled while splitting time in the Black Knights' net last year as freshmen.
Sophomore defender Tommy Jaeger figures to step into the shoes vacated by Pickett and serve as one of the stalwarts along the back line.
With a mix of savvy veterans, experienced sophomores and a talented nucleus of freshman comprising this year's roster, the arrow figures to remain pointed up for the Army men's soccer team. Now that the program's goals have been elevated, nothing short of a postseason berth will be acceptable for this hungry group of Black Knights.
"Our goal, as always, is to realize the true potential of our team and improve as the season progresses," said Payne.
Army's crop of forwards will be headed up by senior Trent Brown, who ranked second on the team last season in goals (three) and points (eight), while listing tied for third with two assists. Brown appeared in all 18 contests as a junior last fall, drawing 13 starts and making the most of his opportunities.
"Trent is our most experienced forward," said Payne. "He is a tireless worker and brings leadership to our club."
Fellow senior Brennan Randel returns to the Black Knights' program after not being a member of the team in 2011. He played in 21 games over his first two seasons at the Academy with a pair of starts. He scored one goal in nine appearances as a sophomore in 2010. His return figures to bolster Army's group of forwards, and his experience and fire power up front will aid the Black Knights' offense.
"Brennan is a very talented forward who will bring an athletic element to our team up front," commented Payne.
Freshmen Cody Guerry and Jordan Lee round out the four-man contingent of forwards.
"Cody and Jordan are dynamic and motivated young players, and we look forward to watching them develop," said Payne.
The Army midfield will be one of the team's most experienced position groups in 2012 with seniors Josh Koeppe and Michael Kim leading the way. Sophomores Kyle Golonski and Devin Perlee, who were productive as plebes a year ago, also return to bolster this group.
Koeppe burst onto the scene offensively in 2011 after not recording a point over his first two seasons at the Academy. The Plano, Texas, native led Army and ranked among the Patriot League leaders in goals (four), points (10), shots (40) and shots on goal (16) en route to earning a spot on the All-Patriot League second team.
"Josh is a great two-way player who will lead our team as one of our captains," said Payne. "He is one of our most experienced players in the midfield, and we expect him to be one of our top offfensive contributors in 2012."
Kim, who routinely triggers the Black Knights' set pieces, will once again help facilitate the Army offense. Last year, Kim finished with one goal and one assist while listing tied for third on the team with 22 shots.
Perlee emerged as one of the Patriot League's most explosive freshmen in 2011, finishing the season with two goals and two assists for six points. He appeared in all 18 matches as a plebe, drawing 14 starts.
Golonski, who ended his initial campaign in an Army uniform with two goals and one helper, is looking to improve upon his steady freshman numbers.
Senior Arnold Chun and junior Jason Lewis will look to make an impact in the midfield this season after contributing in 2011.
"All of our returning midfielders have the ability to decide a game, and that is very exciting," added Payne.
The coaching staff also expects early contributions from freshmen Cody Giddings, Parker Dixon, Justin Kim and Nick Baietti. All four players experienced a great deal of success for their club programs.
Army's defense, which continued to make marked improvements last fall, should be just as strong in 2012 with the return of several key members of the back line. The Black Knights ended last year with a 1.61 goals-against average, marking the second straight season that Army posted a GAA below 2.00.
Sophomore Tommy Jaeger, who was one of just three Black Knights to start all 18 contests a year ago, will anchor an Army defense that posted three shutouts in 2011. Jaeger, who often ignites the Black Knights' attack off direct kicks and corner kicks, is an offensive weapon who racked up three assists as a freshman last season.
Senior team captain Mitch Johnson, junior Alex Pfister, and sophomores Vince Kennedy and Sean Mogan also return to the mix after making strong contributions last year. Mogan started 17 of 18 games in 2011, while Johnson drew seven starts and appeared in 12 contests overall.
"Our returning corps of defenders will all factor into our plans for this season and play a role as we look to improve our defensive record," said Payne.
Freshmen Tony Black, Joseph Chabries, Cameron Niccum, Peter Lee and Lucas Tavill have been brought into the fold by the Army coaching staff and will provide quality depth to the Black Knights' defensive corps.
The Black Knights' goalkeeper situation is a lot more clear heading into 2012 than it was prior to last season thanks to the return of sophomore keepers Winston Boldt and John Marinelli, who split time in the Black Knights' net in 2011.
Marinelli started Army's first 13 matches last season and recorded a 1.67 goals-against average and two shutouts.
Boldt, meanwhile, came on strong at the end of the season, starting the final five contests and posting a 1.48 GAA and one blanking. Boldt finished with a .724 save percentage and a 2-2-1 overall mark.
Senior Michal Fiuk, who started four games for the Black Knights as a sophomore in 2010, provides tremendous leadership to the young group.
"We are fortunate to have Michal back to provide senior leadership to our younger keepers," said Payne. "Winston and John are back in the fold following strong freshman seasons, and we expect them to be even better as sophomores this year."
Freshman Chris Britt rounds out the four-man crew. The first-year keeper from Mission Viejo, Calif., will push the upperclassmen for playing time and provide excellent depth to the position group.
Following a pair of exhibition contests, Army will officially lift the lid on its 2012 campaign on August 25 with a home match versus service acdemy rival Air Force. The Black Knights then play at Seton Hall (Aug. 27) before consecutive home dates opposite Iona (Aug. 31) and Binghamton (Sept. 3).
Army then takes to the road for a pair of challenging road trips against national powers. The Black Knights play at Louisville on Sept. 8, before flying to California to face Cal State Northridge (Sept. 14) and Cal Poly (Sept. 16).
The Black Knights return to the East Coast to open their Patriot League schedule at Holy Cross on Sept. 22. The team then travels to Chester, Pa., to battle Navy at PPL Park on Sept. 30.
Army returns to the friendly confines of West Point's Clinton Field for a contest versus American (Oct. 6) before making the short drive to Garden City, N.Y., to face Adelphi (Oct. 9). The Black Knights then host Colgate on Oct. 13, before traveling to play at Bucknell (Oct. 20), Manhattan (Oct. 23) and Lafayette (Oct. 27).
Army finishes the regular season with consecutive home matches versus NJIT (Oct. 30) and Lehigh (Nov. 3).
Should the Black Knights finish within the top four in the conference standings, they would qualify for the Patriot League Tournament, which will be contested Nov. 9 and 11 at the site of the conference's regular-season champion.
"We've assembled the most challenging non-conference schedule in years," stated Payne. "It's important that we prepare ourselves for high-level national competition as we enter the Patriot League season."