By Meredith Cook
Special to goholycross.com
For many, the third time is the charm. For head men's soccer coach Ted Priestly, who is now in his third year at the helm, and the 2011 Crusaders, the goal for the season is aimed straight at the top four spots in the Patriot League and making it back to the tournament. "Ultimately, what we'd like to see is a focus on our results," said Priestly about the upcoming season. "We're going to continually focus on the small details that add up to the big picture. We need to focus on the day-in, day-out process and hope the end result will speak for itself." The team, which returns 16 letterwinners, including seven starters, are all on board for the same cause as well. They want to focus every day, work hard and work together, creating a winning team.
Four seniors will take on the role of anchoring the team's defense, including co-captain Jordan Michael (Burnaby, British Columbia), Joey Curran (Salem, Va.), Vincent Garofalo (Glenwood, Md.) and Tony Rosales (Aurora, Colo.). "With any senior class leaving, there is always a leadership void that needs to be filled," commented Priestly. "This year's seniors have really stepped in and have not missed a beat at all in terms of getting our guys focused. They've set a great example in the way they have prepared and conditioned themselves and the way they've put in the work during the offseason. They know we want to get as much as we can out of every single day and they definitely set that example for our younger players."
With a solid group of seniors manning the backfield for the Crusaders, a total of nine players on the roster will look for time in the midfield. Leading that group will be junior co-captain Pat McCann (Rockville Centre, N.Y.). McCann ranked second on the team last season in assists, finishing with two total. Along with McCann will be the speedy duo of sophomores Monty Sanders (Temecula, Calif.) and Tommy Uttaro (Staten Island, N.Y.) who saw appearances in every contest as freshmen. Sanders ranked third on the team with 20 shots taken while Uttaro averaged 0.39 shots per game. "As always, there will be competition for every position on the field," said Priestly. "I look forward to seeing our players fight to get on to the field. Daily competition is an essential piece of who we are and what we want to achieve and we're all looking forward to turning the season ahead into something special."
The Crusaders' attack will make use of a few familiar faces, ones looking to step in to the shoes of graduating seniors Kyle Miller and Jonathan Werth. Two sophomores, Kevin O'Connell (Basking Ridge, N.J.) and Joshua Cintas (San Diego, Calif.) along with junior Steven Stefanak (Massapequa, N.Y.) take on the duties in the Holy Cross front field and will all look to add to depth of the wide range of the team's attacking midfielders. O'Connell was a factor in all 18 games last season and tied for the team-high with three goals scored. Cintas will return after a year-long injury while Stefanak returns as a force off the bench, scoring one goal for two points after appearing in all contests as a sophomore. "We are confident in our entire roster, from top to bottom," continued Priestly. "We prepare each of our players to perform and perform well when their number is called. The best eleven players will always play, regardless of their age or background. What these players have done up to this point has gotten them through the door. What they are willing and able to do from here on will determine their impact on the field."
Junior Evan Polanik (Holliston, Mass.) returns as the team's starting netminder. As a sophomore, he recorded five shutouts and made 85 saves for a .759 save percentage. He was honored twice as the Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Week and recorded a 1.50 goals against average. Freshman Michael Thompson (Cromwell, Conn.) serves as the only other goalie on the roster and comes to the Hill after playing three seasons of varsity soccer at Xavier High School in Middletown, Conn. He was named a two-time team MVP (2009-2010) and was selected to the Connecticut Soccer Coaches Association Senior Bowl (2010). He ended the 2010 season with 11 shutouts in 16 games, allowing only six goals for a .375 GAA.
Six other fresh faces will join Thompson and are looking to make an immediate impact on the field in their first years. Andrew Butterworth (Haverhill, Mass.), Beau Gordon (Millburn, N.J.) and John O'Hanlon (St. James, N.Y.) will serve as midfielders on the squad while Ian McGarry (Hanover, Ind.), Gavin Millay (Shelburne, Vt.) and Will Bowers (Raleigh, N.C.) will all look for touches on the defensive side of the ball. "Our freshmen are expected to come in and immediately compete for playing time," remarks Priestly. "We don't want players here who are simply content to fill out the roster. We want ambitious, capable, committed players here at Holy Cross, and each of our freshmen fit the bill."
"I like to think that my coaching philosophy focuses on winning," states Priestly. "I like my teams to play good soccer and that's what this season is all about. We are creating a good game in that we're positive in our approach of training and preparing for the game. These kids want to play hard and want to play well."
The team starts off the season with three home games against local opponents Boston University, Dartmouth and Sacred Heart. The team keeps up the close competition through the middle of September as it plays Temple and George Mason in the Brown Classic, followed by matches with Providence and Rhode Island. Patriot League competition begins at Army on Sept. 24.
The season also features contests with some top tier teams, including the Friars and Brown. A tough non-conference slate is a great way to prepare the team for its league competition. "You show a lot about your program and competition as a whole by the teams you want to schedule," believes Priestly. "We prefer to challenge ourselves and take us out of our comfort zone, allowing us to play the teams that will hopefully bring out the best in us."
After finishing the season with three out of the four final games against conference foes, a bid to the Patriot League Tournament will be known. The 2011 Crusaders are hoping that their third season under the guidance of Priestly will be the one that sends them back in to the tournament field of four and know that they are set and ready for the challenge.