Wisconsin head men's soccer coach Jeff Rohrman spoke to the media Monday afternoon to give a preview of this weekend's season-opening Big Toe Soccer Invitational at McClimon Soccer Complex. The Badgers will face UNLV Friday and Drake on Sunday. Also competing at the tournament, but not in head-to-head competition with the Badgers is UW-Milwaukee.
JEFF ROHRMAN: This weekend, as many of you know, we open up in the second annual Big Toe Invitational. Well be welcoming in Drake as well as UNLV with our tournament partner UW-Milwaukee, both very formidable opponents. Certainly we know Drake a little bit better than UNLV, just being in our region and having played them last year.
They were good last year. It was a tough game down there. Aaron Hohlbein got a goal late to seal the win for us, but a very good team and certainly, you know, we look at their roster, theres some players that we know throughout the region. UNLV, we were there two years ago and it was a little, it was a strange game.
We went a man down and went a goal down, yet the core, thats with this team that are juniors now, they were freshmen at that time. And at halftime we rallied and even a man down came back and won that game. So it was a bit of a turning point, even though it was early in the year. It was a good rallying point. The guys showed great grit and determination to pull that game now.
Now UNLV is coming off a tough season, but at the same time, I was impressed two years ago. I thought they were a very athletic side, had some very skillful players, and were very, very dangerous. And Drake certainly, being in the Missouri Valley last year, obviously they played the likes of Creighton and Tulsa and SMU, and they played those teams very, very tough. So were looking forward to it. Should be a great weekend. The weather should be cooperating, which is always a good thing.
Now, of course, our guys, just to give you a little bit of a recap going into the weekend, you know, through preseason, thank goodness, nobody has been seriously injured, so weve got everybody to choose from for the weekend. Theyre looking forward to it. You know, many of you who know our team certainly know the loss of Nick Van Sicklen and Jed Hohlbein, were two huge losses for us, and certainly created a bit of a vacancy in terms of the goal-scoring column.
However, you know, weve talked to our other players, our midfielders and fours that are returning, and certainly collectively I think we have five, six, seven guys who at any time can score goals for us. And certainly theyre going to need to, to kind of replace that loss. You know, the other one we lost was Noah Goerlitz, who was kind of our holding midfielder.
You know, Frank Iaizzo, a junior for us, has done well through preseason. And also in goal, you know, we lost a three-year starter in Eric Hanson. So we were looking through preseason to figure out who was going to fill that void and Jake Settle has had a good preseason and certainly brings a wealth of talent and a wealth of experience with him. So we feel weve answered some of those losses, and were looking forward to a good weekend, should be a great start for us.
And, you know, if you look at our schedule, weve, you know, I knew this group of juniors were going to be experienced going into this season and weve put together what we feel is going to be an extremely competitive schedule. When you look at it, there are 11 teams that made the NCAA tournament from last year.
Weve got a trip out to Washington to play Portland and Washington. Even though theyre not in the Top 20, they could be there any week. We go down to play New Mexico, which, you know, as of late has been a Top 10 program. So, of course, then weve got the Big Ten schedule. So its an extremely competitive schedule and were looking forward to kicking it off.
DOHERTY: Thanks, Jeff. We can take any questions.
QUESTION #1: Coach, have you figured out exactly where youre going to play Victor Diaz
ROHRMAN: Yeah. Weve tinkered with him up top in a two front. What we do know about Victor is he can score goals. He showed us all last spring what hes capable of doing. Theres not a whole lot of people that, you know, are now going to be surprised by his presence. You know, we will at times probably play him underneath as well.
Being a smaller guy, he tends to take a beating when his back is to the goal quite often, so its a way to kind of protect him, maybe in the same way we did with Nick. There were some times wed have Nick up top and if he was, you know, getting beat up by some of the bigger guys back there, wed slide him underneath and hed pick up some second balls and make some things happen from there where hes maybe facing goal and able to do some things on the run.
QUESTION #2: Is not having any seniors a big deal or is it just an interesting note in the media notes
ROHRMAN: Its probably more of an interesting note, because even though theyre juniors, I look at them as two-year seniors because of the experience theyve had. A lot of those guys have come in and theyve asked, theyve been asked to step in and fill some holes and do some things for us, you know, these past couple years that, you know, a lot of younger players maybe hadnt been asked to do. So theyre an experienced group, even though its, you know, theyre not seniors.
QUESTION #3: Three of those guys in the junior class, Reid (Johnson) and Aaron (Hohlbein) and Andrew (Cardona), played for the 56ers this summer. What do you think they took out of that experience and how is that going to help
ROHRMAN: Well, a large number of our players actually played in this new league, the NPSL, which was kind of like a sister league to the PDL, a high-level regional amateur team. A lot of our guys played in that league.
What it did is it provided them with an opportunity through the summer to play at a high level, to play against good teams, to train with good players, whereas, you know, a lot of times the players go back in the summer and, you know, theyre maybe training twice a week and, you know, playing here and there. Certainly at the youth level, at year 19 and under 20, after, if you dont make it to nationals, you know, your season in the summer is pretty much done by mid-June. So it gave our guys a chance to play at a good level all the way up through August.
QUESTION #4: Coach, Kenny Dix was named in the Top 100 I think by College Soccer News for freshmen. Who are some of the guys who, of this freshman class, that you think can step in and contribute right away
ROHRMAN: Well, I think as a group theyve done very well, and certainly Kenny has proven in these first couple weeks that hes going to be a player that will help us. Zack Lambo has done a great job as a left back. He certainly could see time. I think Andy Miller as a right back could certainly see time as well. You know, but as a group theyve all done very, very well. I think Kenny has done some things to, you know, to turn some heads for sure.