133-67-13 (.654) record since 2001
Central College men’s soccer coach Garry Laidlaw says building a team is like putting a big puzzle together. And this year, he isn’t missing any of the pieces.
“It takes certain intangibles to have a special season,” Laidlaw said. “This team has all of the pieces in place, those intangibles, to build a successful campaign and contend for a league title.”
The Dutch narrowly missed a share of the crown last year, finishing just a game out of first place. Central compiled a 13-5 overall record with a 5-3 league mark. Although Central graduated five players—including its top point-producers and the program’s first league MVP, forward Brett McKenzie—Laidlaw places his confidence in a group of nine seniors.
“They’re strong, dedicated leaders,” he said. “They’ve been through the ups and downs and paid the price. They have the right mindset to lead this team to the next level.”
A deep bench also fuels Laidlaw’s optimism. Twenty letterwinners return, including eight starters, and a solid incoming class of 21 addresses last year’s lack of depth.
“We have players contending for positions in every area,” Laidlaw said. “That creates a positive and healthy competitive environment that will translate onto the field.”
But there’s more than just quantity. There’s quality.
“We’ve have the right types of people,” he said. “They’re individuals with high-caliber character and they’re hungrier than ever to take the team to new heights.”
A sound trio returns to set the backfield. Second-team all-conference selection Garrett Fooshee and honorable mention pick Kevin McQuerrey, a co-captain and 2009 second-team all-league honoree, return for their senior seasons and are joined by junior Matt Woodcock.
The unit started all 18 games last season and helped limit opponents to just 14 goals while recording eight shutouts and setting a school record for fewest shots allowed in a season (165).
“I’m very pleased with how well we played back there last year,” Laidlaw said. “We only conceded more than one goal on two occasions, and those three were a big part of that. They work well together.”
Senior Eric Fjare and junior Gary Sorich will also press for action. Sorich appeared in 16 games last year and Fjare played in 13.
“They’ve been contributing members to the team and we expect them to come in and push for a greater role,” Laidlaw said.
Central is also well-stocked in the midfield. Four starters return.
“Much like the back we feel our core is still intact,” Laidlaw said.
Senior co-captain Jonathan Schroeder, a 2009 second-team all-league pick, started 16 games and was one of the squad’s second-leading scorers with six goals. He’s tied for sixth on the career game-winning goals leaderboard (5) and tied for seventh in career assists (12).
“Jonathan doesn’t always get the credit he deserves,” Laidlaw said. “He does many things that go unnoticed that help our team click.”
Senior Leland Schipper, also a team co-captain, battled through injury last season and was one of the team’s assist leaders, posting five while starting 17 matches.
“He played on the flank last year and we’ll look for him to have a more central role,” Laidlaw said. “He’s a creator that can also score and keep the ball, so this will be a more natural position for him.”
A second-team all-conference selection, sophomore Daniel Peacock was named the team’s newcomer of the year. He started 18 games and had two assists.
“Peacock was one of three freshmen in the league to make the all-conference squad and he means a lot to our midfield,” Laidlaw said. “The best is still yet to come from him.”
Junior Brandon Bautista is aimed to blossom. He scored three goals for the Dutch in 2010 before injury cut his season short.
“Brandon can have a breakthrough season and is primed to lead to the team.”
Also striving for spots are junior Tyler Archey, senior Hunter ViedenKamp, sophomore Kyle Maynard, sophomore Jake O’Polka and junior Zach Jensen.
The Dutch will look for someone new to provide the scoring punch. Last year McKenzie knocked in a team-high 11 goals. He broke the school career game-winning goals record (15) and ranks third on the career goals leaderboard (38). But he’ll be on the sidelines as a student assistant before graduating in December.
“We have the biggest changes in the attacking areas,” Laidlaw said. “However we have a number of players waiting in the wings that are more than ready to make the most of an opportunity to play this year.”
Junior Jordan Appenzeller notched six goals last season, scoring twice in three games. He also had two assists and was named the squad’s most improved player.
“Jordan’s been getting more experience each year,” Laidlaw said. “He has the potential to have a breakthrough season this year.”
Sophomore Dillon Thornbury scored two goals and dished two assists, appearing in 18 games.
“Dillon was a pleasant surprise up front after moving him from the flank to a more forward position partway through the season,” Laidlaw said.
Junior Ralph Palmeri and senior Nick Vance also show promise.
“Both had excellent spring seasons,” Laidlaw said. “If they play like they finished they’ll pose a real threat.”
Senior Erik Johnson appeared in 14 games and contributed a goal.
“He was abroad in the spring and can be a valuable player for us.”
Sophomore Tim Maggard returns from a stunning rookie campaign. Compiling a 10-4 record, he’s already fourth on the career wins leaderboard and tied for fifth in career shutouts with four. Maggard posted 50 saves.
“Tim has great hands which is obviously vital for a goalkeeper,” Laidlaw said. “He breeds confidence throughout the team and we look for him to grow even more as a sophomore.”
Contesting for a spot in the net, senior David Ziemann had two saves in three appearances last fall.
“He’s gradually played more and more since his freshman year and is always knocking on the door,” Laidlaw said. “He has the right mindset and will come in ready to challenge for the top spot.”
Sophomore Travis Yets transferred in at semester.
“He had a good spring season and is hungry to challenge for the spot as well.”
The Dutch have strengthened their non-conference schedule, meeting four teams for the first time in program history.
Central opens with Elmhurst (Ill.) at home before tackling Washington-St. Louis (Mo.) on the road. Washington has compiled a 25-18-4 record in 19 appearances at the NCAA tournament. In mid-September the Dutch travel to Illinois Wesleyan and then take on Division II Truman State Univ. (Mo.) in Pella. Truman made its ninth trip to the NCAA tournament in 2010.
“We look forward to playing some teams we haven’t played before,” Laidlaw said. “All of those schools are strong both regionally and nationally and this kind of schedule will help us prepare for the rigors of Iowa Conference play.”
Although no league games will come easy, the Dutch have spread out their meetings against last year’s tri-champions. Central opens at home against Wartburg Sept. 24, travels to Loras early October and faces Dubuque at home in the last regular-season matchup Oct. 26.
“So many games in the league were closely contested and hard-fought last year,” Laidlaw said. “It’s a tighter and tighter race each year.”