A new chapter in the history book of Wisconsin mens soccer begins this fall. A new coaching staff has taken the reins of the program and envisions a future of national prominence for the Badgers.
Our commitment will be toward re-establishing Wisconsin as a strong regional and national program and to developing the total student-athlete, first-year head coach Jeff Rohrman said. It is one of our top priorities to help our young men reach their potential as both students and players.
Since 1977, the inaugural year of Wisconsin mens soccer, there have been only four head coaches in the 25-year history of Badger soccer. Now in 2002, Rohrman, his assistant coaches Jon Szczepanski and Nick Pasquarello, and the team are ready to play their part in the legacy of Wisconsin soccer.
One of our primary goals, if not our mission, is to rebuild this program and bring it back to regional and national competitiveness, Rohrman said.
Our soccer program has a rich tradition of excellence that we want to continue to build on.
A wave of renewed support has begun to build from fans and alumni alike for the 2002 season.
The biggest thing is just the sense of excitement regarding the new season, Rohrman said. Between the soccer community, high school coaches, club coaches, and our alumni, there is a sense of excitement and energy about where the program should be in 2002.
The spring season saw six players step up as leaders for 2002 in the Badger senior class. Red-shirt seniors Valentine Anozie and Christian Poppert, along with true seniors Michael Epp, John McGrady, Aymar Sinaise, and Perry Smith will help lead the Badgers through the fall. Rohrman says hell rely on this senior class to show quality leadership both on and off the field.
I feel that I'm pretty lucky, actually, to have come in to a situation where there are six extremely good leaders on this team, Rohrman said. They have bought into and shown a sense of commitment and belief in what we can do and what we should be able to do.
Chosen for the attributes they bring to the game, this years team captains will be Anozie and McGrady.
Anozie, a native of Nigeria, served as a captain in 2001 despite his red-shirt season due to injury. This year, his attitude and commitment to the game earned him a second term.
He's one of the most respected players we have, Rohrman said, and just simply deserved it.
Co-captain McGrady transferred to Wisconsin from Jacksonville after his freshman year and Rohrman credits the defender/midfielder for his ability to communicate on the field.
He possesses great communication skills and he's a tremendous leader on and off the field. His ability to organize, relate to, and communicate with the players is first-class.
Experiment in Success
The theme of the preseason and the early fall might just be experimentation. Rohrman and the team used the spring as an opportunity for analysis and redesign of the teams dynamics.
We experimented a little bit, played with a couple of different systems and tried some players in different places, he said. I think overall the spring was very successful. Not only in terms of wins and losses, but also in terms of an understanding of what it takes to compete for 90 minutes.
With an influx of new faces during the preseason, the Badgers will use their exhibition games against Northern Illinois and the Milwaukee Rampage, a professional A-League team, to bring the team together. Rohrman will also use this time to instill his own vision of success for the Wisconsin Badgers.
Our ultimate goal is to win the national championship, Rohrman says. But I think individually and collectively, when we sat together this spring, I felt that everybody was extremely committed to working hard this summer and to competing as hard as they could in every game this fall.
I'm not going to put any additional pressure of winning on the players as they certainly feel that they have something to prove, but I will apply the pressure of them performing at their highest level. The results will ultimately take care of themselves.
Experience and Youth
The key component of the 2002 season will be how the team brings together its veteran leadership and the Badgers underclassmen. Of 25 total players entering the preseason, 16 are freshmen and sophomores.
I think we're going to have a nice blend of senior leadership and youth, Rohrman said. How we're able to blend that and put that together on the field will be the key to our success. Yes, in some areas, we are going to be a little bit inexperienced, but at the same time, we've got six seniors who've been around a while and will help guide the young players.
The 2002 season will see a new generation in Badger goalkeepers. The Badgers lost veteran Moriba Atiba Baker to graduation and Phil Ayoub opted to forego his senior season to act as the teams manager. For the first time in several years, Wisconsin will face a tough competition for the starting goalkeeper.
Leading the charge is redshirt sophomore Eric Hanson, whos coming off a strong spring performance, including a first-half shutout and five saves against the Milwaukee Rampage. Although Hanson has no regular season time in net, Rohrman believes hell be the guy to beat this fall.
Hanson is joined by two incoming freshmen Michael Jelenic and Adam Jelinek. With regional and national experience, Jelenic brings a strong resume to the position. An athletic and technical goalkeeper, hell be expected to push Hanson during the fall and will compete to play. In turn, Jelinek is a late edition from the spring, but as a a three-sport all-district selection in high school, he will bring some needed depth to the position.
Defensively, the Badgers will use four defenders in their back line and have converted some of their traditional midfielders into defenders. Sophomore Joe Anderson has moved into the center to play alongside McGrady providing leadership within the back line.
Senior Aymar Sinaise has moved into the right-back position while the left back position, Ryan Nord and Perry Smith will jockey for minutes after a spring of shared time at that position. Incoming freshmen Alec Neal and C.J. Lipinski will also bring solid athleticism, defensive technique and state ODP experience to the line-up. Both are expected to compete to play this season as true freshmen.
The midfield will see the fiercest competition as the Badger roster includes a strong number of players at that position. Senior Mike Epp brings a physical presence, an important piece of the puzzle for Wisconsin, while fellow senior Christian Poppert, returning after a red-shirt season due to injury, and junior Watson Vaughn Prather will also work to break into the starting ranks of the midfield after playing in 15 games last year, including eight starts in the midfield.
The Badgers also gain experience in the midfield through Erol Goknur and David Martinez, two midfielders who earned significant playing time last fall and performed solidly during the spring. Martinez picked up five goals and ranked third on the team in scoring, while Goknur saw action in all 19 games, including 11 starts. Sophomore Noah Goerlitz, although injured this spring, proved his skills on the field last fall finishing the season with seven starts in 14 games.
The midfield will also see the most new faces on the roster. Defender C.J. Lipinski may move to the midfield, while fellow newcomers Erik Insko and Seth Byers are expected to impact the line immediately. Insko, who played for the Rockford Raptors soccer club and the Illinois ODP state team, will compete to play right away, while Rohrman believes Byers, a member of the Region II ODP team, will play a role in the Badgers attack. Bringing up the left side, incoming freshman Philip Jones shows great athleticism, speed and quickness that Rohrman feels will add depth to the midfield line-up.
Leading the forward line, fifth-year senior Anozie will be relied upon heavily in the attacking positions, but may also see time in the midfield as the Badgers continue to build their versatility on the field. Sophomore Nick Van Sicklen, a fundamental component of last years offense with 11 points and field time in 18 games (17 starts), will also see his share of minutes up top for Wisconsin.
True freshman Pat Cronan will add a different dimension as an incoming freshmen with his size. At 6-3, Cronan will provide added strength to the teams scoring opportunities. Stepping into the wing, incoming freshmen Phil Doeh, a two-sport high school athlete in soccer and track, enters the season as a polished and sophisticated player who will only imrove in the collegiate soccer environment. Fellow freshman Byers will also compete as a forward during the season.