Last season, the University of New Hampshire men's soccer team started its season strong and the Wildcats finished the year as the leader in America East in shutouts and goals against average.
The team was ranked first in the region during the season, a first in the program's history. New Hampshire also saw itself in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Top 25 for two straight weeks.
While the team finished 9-5-3 overall, the 2-4-2 America East record was not enough to qualify for the America East tournament. The Wildcats held a 2-2-1 record against NCAA tournament teams.
This season, 14-year New Hampshire coach Rob Thompson returns 17 lettermen and hopes to capitalize on his experienced players going into the new season.
The UNH coaching staff hopes to get a boost with the return of senior Ross Fishbain (Racine, Wis.). Fishbain was second in scoring last season with three goals, including game-winners against Iona and Army.
Junior Bryan Stewart (Swanzey, N.H.) and sophomore A.J. DuBois (Acworth, N.H.) should see playing time alongside Fishbain. Stewart played in 14 games last season and recorded one assist in the win against Furman while DuBois saw action up top and in the midfield for the Wildcats.
Junior Adam Marcellus (Malvern, Pa.) has moved up to the forward position as well. Marcellus played in 13 games and provided a spark for the offense with two goals.
Freshmen Chris Banks (Westborough, Mass.) and Joe Annese (Attleboro, Mass.) are ready to contribute and can be used to add depth at the wing positions. Banks notched 36 goals along with 12 assists his senior year at Westborough (Mass.) while Annese led Attleboro in scoring with 10 goals and five assists.
While individual statistics may not reflect it, New Hampshire's defense was the key to its success. New Hampshire led America East with 10 shutouts, which set a new school record and was ranked fourth in the nation for both shutout and goals against average percentage.
Seniors Matt Shump (Durham, N.H.) and Pedro Braz (East Providence, R.I.) along with juniors John Bergqvist (Hollviken, Sweden) and sophomores Mike McKee (Newtown, Pa.), Mike Davis (Tigard, Ore.) and Richard Weinrebe (East Providence, R.I.)return to the backfield for the Wildcats.
Shump not only was a fierce defender but also contributed with three assists during the season. In addition to receiving the Walter Weiland Award as the team's most dedicated player for the third consecutive year, Shump was also named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America Third Team and Academic All-District First Team.
Braz played in all 17 games and recorded three assists on the season. Weinrebe also appeared in all 17 games. Bergqvist played in 16 games, recorded two assists and was later named to the America East Second Team All-Conference and All-Rookie Team. Davis played a solid spring season and will contribute as well.
McKee also had a goal in 15 games played and was named the America East Rookie of the Week for his efforts in the win against Coastal Carolina.
Freshman Patrick Gay (Stonington, Conn.) is recovering from ACL surgery and could add depth to the backfield.
America East Goalie of the Year Brian Levey (Pittsburgh, Pa.) returns in net for the Wildcats to begin his senior campaign.
Levey played every minute last season and registered Wildcat records for most shutouts in a season with 10 as well as goals against average (0.57). In 17 games, Levey posted a .825 save percentage while leading the conference in goals against average and ranking fifth overall in Division I. Levey was named to the All-New England First Team.
Expect junior Mike Jenne (Vernon, N.Y.) and newcomer Tunde Ogunbiyi (Gwynedd, Pa.) to add support to the position. Jenne did not get into any games during the 2005 season but enjoyed a strong spring which could earn him playing time this season.
The New Hampshire midfield is perhaps the deepest unit on the team.
Senior Geoff Sanford (Johnson City, N.Y.), along with juniors Derek Bragg (Downingtown, Pa.), Matt Low (Salem, N.H.) and sophomore Scott Rowling (Richboro, Pa.), is expected to secure the midfield and help set UNH's offense in motion.
Low was credited with an assist on the game-winning goal against Iona College while Sanford was one of only three Wildcats to start all 17 games last season.
Bragg and Rowling each saw a signifcant amount of playing time and combined to start 12 games for New Hampshire.
Sophomore Kyle Urso (Lombard, Ill.) saw time this spring at the forward position and led New Hampshire in scoring.
Expected to fill out the midfield depth chart will be junior Colin Smith (Saverna Park, Md.) and sophomore Dan Cripe (Raymond, N.H.).
Incoming freshmen Bobby Cooley (Northborough, Mass.), Geoff Narode (Glenmont, N.Y.), Greg Frost (Cumberland, Maine) and Owen Burns (Oswego, N.Y.) and could contribute immediately.
Burns enjoyed a strong offensive season his senior year at Oswego where he registered 15 goals and 11 assists. Cooley played for nationally ranked Algonquin High (Mass.) and scored 13 goals during his senior campaign. Narode scored five goals with 10 assists at Bethlehem Central. Frost was a four-year starter on the varsity squad at Greely where he scored 36 career goals and 20 assists.
The University of New Hampshire will open its season at home August 25 against California Polytechnic State University in the second matchup of the 17th Annual NIKE Fall Soccer Classic. The Wildcats will then take on St. Peter's College on August 27. The University of Vermont will also participate in the annual tournament.
The Wildcats will then compete in the Dartmouth Invitational, hosted by Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. There, UNH will play Long Island University on September 1 and Dartmouth on September 3.
From there, New Hampshire will continue tournament play as it travels to the UVM Smith Barney Classic in Burlington, Vt. It will match up against Central Connecticut on September 8 and Cornell University on September 10.
The Wildcats briefly return home to face area rival Northeastern on September 15 before heading back out on the road for a four-game stretch against Hofstra, Massachusetts, and America East members Vermont and Binghamton.
Later in the season, New Hampshire will travel to play a non-conference game against Holy Cross October 10.
The Wildcats will host Senior Day on October 18 at home against UMBC before closing out the regular season at Stony Brook on October 21.
The six-team America East tournament opens November 1 with the championship winner receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.