2012 Men's Soccer Preview
Hagerstown, Md. - The Hagerstown Community College men’s soccer team was a team on the rise heading into the 2011 season, coming off a sudden overtime loss in the NJCAA Region XX Semi-finals to eventual champion CCBC-Essex the year before. However, the team fell short of the expectations, finishing the season 6-9-2 and losing in the first round of the NJCAA Region XX playoffs.
Coaches Brian Eichelberger and Brandon Rethemeyer feel the challenge for their team is to learn from those mental mistakes last year and build around a core group of returning players. “We want to get back to our winning ways, and we know we underachieved last season, so it was our goal to get all our athletes on the same page right away and become a more cohesive team in both our attack and defense,” said Eichelberger. “We have to get back to the basics and winning will be a byproduct of the hard work everyone will put in.”
One of the factors playing into last season’s underwhelming performance was the mental breakdowns on defense and the struggles away from Hawk Field. HCC allowed 2.1 goals per game last year and went 2-6-0 in matches on the road. Rethemeyer said there will be heavy emphasis on defense during preseason matches against NCAA Division III schools Frostburg State University and Hood College.
He also noted that every player will have an opportunity to compete during preseason practices. "Every athlete we have on this team is an important player to our program," Rethemeyer said. "Obviously our six returners from last year have the experience and knowledge of the college game and they are eager to put last season behind them.”
The Hawks look to rebuild their defense, starting with sophomore captain, Chucky Kipe (Frederick, Md./Tuscarora), who will move to the goalkeeper position. Last season, Kipe was third on the team in points from his midfield spot; however, he transitioned to between the pipes in the offseason. Sophomore Fredy Velasquez (Frederick, Md./Tuscarora) returns to the spot to compete for time with sophomore Brandon Wingfield (Hagerstown, Md./South Hagerstown). “Chucky has put in the hard work that is necessary to be a dominant keeper in this league” quoted Eichelberger. “He has the mental ability to lead this team from the back.”
New faces will comprise the backline for the Hawks, as HCC lost their previous starters to graduation. Northern Virginia resident and freshmanRuben Ayllon (Manassas, Va./Osbourn Park) is the front runner for the center back position, as his composure and technical ability make him an immediate player to watch. Clayton Layman (Smithsburg, Md./Smithsburg) and Chip Rittenhouse (Hagerstown, Md./South)are expected to be the outside backs. Rittenhouse, a former goalkeeper for the Hawks makes a move to this new position, while Layman was an All-Area player in the midfield and at striker in high school. Freshman Kofi Owusu (Washington D.C./Smithsburg) will compete for time in defense. “This group of players work exceptionally hard and they are getting up to speed with the college game very quickly,” mentioned Eichelberger. “We knew we would be transitioning players into new spots in the back, and they will continue to improve each day.”
A technically gifted group of players will lead the midfield for the Hawks. Sophomore captain Mamadou Jallow (Gambia,Afica/Thomas Johnson) will hold down his center midfield position and help build on his team-leading assists last season. Freshmen Osman Ramizov (Hagerstown, Md./North Hagerstown) and Fourkoko Chaw (Frederick, Md./Thomas Johnson) look to combine with freshmenBobby Matusek (Frederick, Md./Tuscarora), Brandon Redman (Boonsboro, Md./Boonsboro) and redshirt sophomore Brandon Barlow (Hagerstown, Md./Williamsport) in the attacking midfield positions. Sophomore Nathan Pryor (Smithsburg, Md./Smithsburg)and freshman Aaron Rodgers (Funkstown, Md./South) will compete with freshman Matt Suddith (Hagerstown, Md./South Hagerstown)for the defensive positions in the midfield. “We are fortunate this year to have so many combinations in the midfield,” stated Rethemeyer. “Our midfielders already have shown a lot of confidence in getting the ball and going forward this year, while also locking down the defensive responsibilities, which is what we need if we don’t want to allow the goals like last year.”
Genc Sopa (Kosovo, Europe/Lipian) is the lone returner up top for the Hawks. He was tied for third on the team in goals scored last year. A crop of freshmen will be called upon to also help put the ball in the back of the net. Kwasi Ofosu Ameyaw (Hagerstown, Md./South Hagerstown), Bradley Coblentz (Frederick, Md./Middletown),Jazer Mauricio (Hagerstown, Md./North Hagerstown), Alfred Ayenu (Hagerstown, Md./South Hagerstown), and Jordan Dickens (Hagerstown, Md./South Hagerstown) look to increase last season’s mark of 38 goals scored. “I’m expecting big things out of Genc this year,” stated Eichelberger. “He has been very dedicated in the offseason and he is the type of player who can strike fear in opposing defenders because of his creativity and knack for scoring. The freshmen will need to get adjusted to the college game right away, as they will all see time from the beginning. They each bring their own type of flair and they rely on their strengths to get the ball up front.”
Looking ahead to both the conference and nonconference schedule, Eichelberger says it is a season packed with top contenders. “Currently we have six teams on the schedule that are ranked in the preseason top 20 for NJCAA Division I and III. It’s crucial to get the new guys acclimated and ready to go quickly.”
HCC opens its regular season schedule on August 30 against #13 Montgomery College-Rockville. Joining Eichelberger and Rethemeyer on their staff is former goalkeeper Brian Kukucka, who is returning to the area to finish his final year of college. Kukucka was a captain and standout keeper for the Hawks during the 2009-2010 seasons. He brings a wealth of experience to the position and will help train the goalkeepers.
“We know last season wasn’t our best, and we want to return to the top of the conference,” Eichelberger said. “This group of players has the heart to propel us back to our winning ways.”