DURHAM, N.H. - The 2001 edition of the UNH men's soccer team returns nine starters and 75 percent of the scoring from a year ago. Sprinkle in the fact that the squad features eight sophomores, several who played key roles as freshmen a year ago, and a return to the America East tournament is a realistic goal for the Wildcats.
Last season the Wildcats posted a 6-10-0 (3-6-0 America East) mark. UNH fell to nationally-ranked Penn State 2-1 in double overtime in the season's second game, and also lost to 2000 national champion Connecticut by a slim 1-0 margin. In addition, six of the 'Cats 10 losses were decided by just a single goal.
Andy Karam (Schenectady, N.Y.), Shaun O'Neil (Wrentham, Mass.) and Tyler Tibbs (Beaverton, Ore.), all fifth-year seniors, give the 'Cats a wealth of experience. Karam, a fifth-year senior, led the 'Cats in scoring a year ago and also gives the squad solid on-field leadership. O'Neil has become one of the top goalies in America East. Only two starting keepers in the league gave up fewer goals than O'Neil last season as he posted three shutouts and a 1.41 goals-against average. He will also serve as co-captain this season. Tibbs will anchor an experienced backfield after starting 15 of 16 games last fall.
With the graduation of 1999 America East Player of the Year Adam Purcell, the forward spot should be wide open. Sophomore Nicola Chicco (Claymont, Del.) should be a force up front this season. Chicco totaled 2-1-5 last season and his numbers should go up as he has had a year to adjust to the college game. Sophomore Matt Glode (Barrington, N.H.) should also see increased playing time. Glode notched his first career goal against Penn State. Otaso Osayimwese (Lincoln University, Pa.), who practiced with the team last year, should also see time up front.
Logan Lee (Racine, Wis.), an exceptional athlete that led Washington Park H.S. in scoring for four years, and Tim Kratt (Hampton, N.H.) are the freshmen that will be looking to crack the lineup.
In addition to Karam, the midfield is stacked with several quality players, including senior Ken Hayner (Charlton, N.Y.), junior Kenny Porras (Narragansett, R.I.), and sophomores Nicholas Mello (Rehoboth, Mass.), Brett Wyman (Durham, N.H.) and Josh Hareld (N. Kingstown, R.I.).
Hayner moves to the midfield after spending last season in the back. Porras has had a good preseason and should see more time in the lineup after playing in nine games the last two years. Hareld heads up a fine sophomore class in the middle. Hareld ranked fourth on the team in scoring with 3-1-7 despite coming off the bench most of the time.
Wyman appeared in nine games last fall and recorded an assist. Mello will likely split time between the middle and the backfield.
Freshman Tyler Jackson (Amherst, N.H.) was a 2000 All-New England selection and can play either right or center midfield. Jamey Haughton (N. Hampton, N.H.) and David Barrett (Chicago, Ill.) should also challenge for playing time.
The Wildcats return a very experienced backfield in 2001, with starters Tibbs, Christian Pauckstadt (Wuppertal, Germany) and Brendan Hankard (Glastonbury, Conn.) all returning. The defense will be bolstered by the addition of junior co-captain Doug Lawver (Doylestown, Pa.) who moves from the midfield.
Tibbs recorded his first career goal last fall and is one of the Wildcats most consistent players in the back. Pauckstadt started 13 games a year ago and played in all 16 in his first season. Hankard, the 1999 Connecticut Player of the Year, was named to the America East All-Rookie team and was one of only three players to start all 16 games.
Lawver's move to the back bolsters an already solid defense. Last year, as a midfielder, Lawver totaled 2-7-11 and ranked as high as sixth nationally in assists. He also set a Nike Fall Soccer Classic record for assists in a game, notching three helpers against St. Bonaventure.
Senior Ryan DiNunzio (Kenmore, N.Y.) will likely split his time between midfield and back. He started 13 games and appeared in all 16 a season ago playing primarily in the middle. Junior Josh McGeachey (Cape Elizabeth, Maine) will look to make the likely transition to the back. Matt Chambers (conifer, Col.) and sophomore transfer Ben Utter (Arlington, Mass.) may also see some time in the back, as well as Hayner.
O'Neil should see the majority of action between the pipes this season, as he played in 13 games last season and posted three shutouts. The co-captain also owned a scoreless streak of 265:07 during one stretch last year. Chad Green (Canyon, Texas), Nate Tupper (New Boston, N.H.), and Mike Vignola (Hudson, N.H.) will also be looking for time in net in their first season with the 'Cats
UNH will open the 2001 campaign with the 12th annual Nike Fall Soccer Classic on Sept. 2-3. In addition to traditional participant Vermont, this year's tournament will also feature New York rivals Oneonta State and Hartwick. The 'Cats will face Oneonta on Sept. 2 and then face Hartwick in a Labor Day matchup on the 3rd. The America East opener is Tuesday, October 2 at Maine.