151-102-14 (.592) record since 2001
2014 record: 5-13-0 overall, 2-5 Iowa Conference (sixth place)
Starters lost: 4 (MF/D Dennis Forrest, F Aleksandar Glavas, D/MF Mark Hentschel, D Nick Lutsch)
Starters returning: 7 (D Calvin Bill, D Zach Butters, D Jeremy Dolder, MF Bryce Leonard, GK Austin Little, D/MF Adelmo Marchiori IV, MF Salvador Villanueva,)
Letterwinners lost/returning: 9/13
Returning all-conference players: 0 (honorable mention – D Zach Butters)
Coach Garry Laidlaw and the Central College men’s soccer program hopes a productive spring will help the team to rebound from a disappointing 2014 campaign.
Despite qualifying for the league tournament for the 13th consecutive season, the Dutch slipped to 5-13-0 and a sixth-place Iowa Conference finish. Laidlaw knew his team needed to quickly move past the disappointment and look ahead.
“We had a team meeting the day after the season last year that I thought was extremely productive,” he said. “We basically hit the reset button. None of us were happy with the year we had just finished. Since that day, we’ve done nothing but look forward.”
A busy spring gave time ample time to prepare for the new season. On top of the annual spring season of workouts and training sessions, several members of the team took part in a European adventure over spring break. Part of the men’s and women’s soccer squads travelled to Germany and Holland to practice and play in three exhibition games against talented European sides.
“The trip to Europe gave the team a chance to gel and play together more than they normally would have,” Laidlaw said. “There’s also a new indoor facility in town which the team could utilize on their own during the winter months. We also had a productive spring season. With all those things combined, we feel like we’re further ahead in our development than we normally would be.”
Even with the return of last year’s top goalkeeper in junior Austin Little, there is still some uncertainty around the position. That’s because after missing all of last season with an injury, junior Josh Carpenter will also return to the team this fall.
Carpenter was the team’s top backup in 2013, registering two wins in three starts while making 21 saves. Little played nearly 90 percent of the team’s minutes in Carpenter’s absence in 2014, earning three shutout victories and making 80 saves. Making a decision on his top keeper is not something Laidlaw expects to do anytime soon.
“It’s a question we haven’t fully answered yet,” he said. “There’s nothing set in stone because they’re close enough right now that either one of them could be the first-choice keeper. We’ve decided to push the competition into the preseason. We also have a freshman we will be taking a look at. They will all be given the opportunity in the preseason to try to earn their spot.”
A starter in the back for much of his career, senior Jeremy Dolder plays a role in trying to improve upon last year.
“Jeremy, almost from the day the season ended, has taken on a leadership role,” Laidlaw said. “He’s going to be a captain this year and I think he’s already done a great job of trying to get the team to come together for our common purpose. We’re really excited about what he’s going to bring to the team as a captain, emotionally and otherwise."
Zach Butters broke onto the scene in a big way as a freshman. The team’s newcomer of the year received honorable mention all-conference distinction.
“He showed early on he was a player we were going to be able to rely on,” Laidlaw said. “He continued to get stronger as the year went on last year and I still think he’s got even more potential. He may move into the midfield for us”
A highlight of the European trip may have been the emergence of junior EJ Schroeder. He’s appeared in 33 games in his career, but started just five. Laidlaw believes he could be a big part of the equation in 2015.
“He played very well for us in Europe,” Laidlaw said. “Since then he has continued to take his fitness to a new level. We think he’s ready to take that step into a leadership role and give us what we’ve always known he has technically and tactically.”
Juniors Owen Shawgo and Nicholas Kuntz and sophomore Calvin Bill also have played significant varsity minutes and will contribute again this fall.
“They also made solid progress this past spring and will be counted on for even greater production this season,” Laidlaw said.”
The team’s most valuable player last year after scoring three goals and two assists in 18 starts, junior Adelmo Marchiori IV appears poised and ready to take his role up another notch.
“We’ve been trying to work with him on becoming the leader we need him to be,” Laidlaw said. “He’s had such a big role on the field and he’s ready to embrace the role off the field and in the dressing room as well.”
Salvador Villanueva was a spark plug for Central’s offense last year. He scored two goals, contributed two assists, and had several near misses with 12 shots on goal as a freshman. Now back for year two, Laidlaw has bigger expectations for Villanueva.
“We’re asking for more out of him this year,” he said. “We’re trying to work with him on how to play in certain areas of the pitch. With a year of experience and improved fitness, we believe we will get more production from him. He’s an offensive weapon.”
Senior Nathaniel Holte will once again provide a steady influence in the midfield. Holte played in 16 games last season and started once. According to Laidlaw, Holte’s influence on the team goes beyond the field .
“The great thing about Nathaniel is that he’s competitive, but at the same time he accepts his role,” he said. “We had a number of conversations last year regarding just what he gives to our team. It’s not always been measured in minutes, but there’s other areas we need him to help lead in. When he does come in, we know what we’re going to get from him.”
Sophomores Bryce Leonard and Andrew McMIllan, who earned varsity letters as freshmen, will provide further depth.
The Dutch will need to find offensive production with the graduation of top goal scorers Aleksandar Glavas and Dennis Forrest, who were responsible for nine of the team’s 19 goals. The early favorites to take the task on might be a bit unexpected.
Sophomore Josh Prokupek was asked to play a variety of positions a year ago for depth reasons. The only goal he scored during his freshman season was a dramatic game-winner against William Penn in the second extra period. Prokupek could add more to that tally this year.
Seth Signs played in just three games as a freshman, but after an impressive spring, might see the field more often as a sophomore. Another option is junior Kyle Langstraat, who missed out on his sophomore season.
“I thought we had a productive spring season from Seth Signs,” Laidlaw said. “He didn’t play much at all last year but he has tremendous athleticism. He’s very fast, strong and fit. He just needed to catch up a little bit with the college level of play. We’ll take a good look at him. We’re also hoping Kyle can return from injury this year.”
The Dutch will add 17 members to the squad in the fall with a large freshman class, hailing from Iowa, Missouri, and Nebraska. After graduating six seniors, Laidlaw knew his team needed to add talent and depth.
“We knew we needed to improve in all areas this off-season and after graduating a pretty large class of seniors,” Laidlaw said. “We’ve got some new additions we’re excited about.
Laidlaw is joined on the coaching staff by Mike Kobylinski and Will Foskett. Kobylinski, a former player under Laidlaw, is also entering his fifth season as head women’s soccer coach.
“He brings a wealth of experience and working knowledge of the program like no one else,” Laidlaw said. “It’s very challenging for him to juggle both his roles here and we appreciate everything he gives us. He also helps us in so many other aspects of the program, including camps, social media, alumni relations, and our spring trip to Europe. We are looking forward to having him around the guys even more this season as we continue to ‘tweak’ our staffing model.”
Will Foskett enters his fourth season with the program, and his second as an assistant coach after previously being a volunteer assistant. Due to some restructuring of his position, he is also able to spend more time with the team this season.
“Will is eager and continues to learn and grow as a coach,” Laidlaw said. “He already spends extensive time with our goalkeepers. Now, he will be more available to help with training preparation and recruiting.”
Central will once again take on a daunting 17-game schedule this season. A very top-loaded non-conference schedule is highlighted by trips to NCAA tournament qualifiers Westminster (Mo.) on September 16 and Wis.-Whitewater on Oct. 7.
“It prepares us about as well as we could ask,” Laidlaw said. “When you play teams that are perennially top-20 teams and make the NCAA tournament on a consistent basis, you do it with the purpose of preparing for conference play.”
The conference slate features 2014 NCAA tournament qualifiers Loras and Wartburg.
“It’s a great and challenging league,” Laidlaw said. “The gap from top to bottom has closed. There no longer is an easy game in the conference for soccer.”
The Dutch open at home against Nebraska Wesleyan September 1 at 5 p.m.