133-67-13 (.654) record since 2001
PELLA--Constructing a new identity won’t be necessary for the Central College men’s soccer team.
Graduation hit Central hard after last year’s 10-8-1 season, taking more than half of the squad’s starters, including three all-Iowa Conference picks. But coach Garry Laidlaw believes this season the Dutch know who they are and how they want to play.
“This group likes to be challenged every time we train,” Laidlaw said. “We’re not going to use age and experience as an excuse. Many players, although young, have already shown they can play and compete in important matches. They like to be pushed, which is a good sign.”
The drive and aggressiveness the 20 returning letterwinners displayed last season fuels Laidlaw’s optimism.
“We really didn’t have a huge drop-off throughout the squad last year,” Laidlaw said. “We had a competitive group challenging the upperclassmen and making them better. Now they’re eager to take on larger roles in the team and we’re excited to see how much further they can take the program.”
Seniors Matt Woodcock and Gary Sorich command the Dutch as co-captains in 2012.
Woodcock, a three-year letterwinner, received Iowa Conference honorable mention recognition last year as a midfielder.
“Matt’s had a significant role on the team all three years,” Laidlaw said. “We’re excited about the role he can play in the field and the playing experience he has drawn from in his career is going to make him that much better for us as a captain.”
Sorich, a defender, is also a three-time letterwinner.
“Gary brings a different perspective,” Laidlaw said. “He’s an experienced player whose role is still evolving and I believe it says a tremendous amount that his peers still believed he would make a great captain.”
Senior Jordan Appenzeller was Central’s second-leading scorer last season with six goals. He had two assists and a team-high 54 shots. On Central’s all-time career charts, Appenzeller ranks seventh for shots (139), is tied for seventh for game-winning goals (5) and is tied for 10th for goals (15).
“Jordan’s role has continued to increase steadily,” Laidlaw said. “As a senior, we have high hopes he is going to do a great job leading the line up front.”
Senior Ralph Palmeri has flashed potential and competed in 15 games last year.
“He has great technical ability and a knack for scoring goals,” Laidlaw said. “He’s got a great opportunity to have a larger impact this year.”
Sophomore Nick Hauenstein appeared in 11 matches last year and started in two. He had one assist.
“Nick was a pleasant surprise last year as a freshman,” Laidlaw said. “He had an exceptional spring and has a real chance of being an impact forward for us this year.”
Sophomore Chris Poesch also contributed at the varsity level last year, scoring two goals and notching two assists. He started six of 18 games.
“He was another pleasant surprise as a freshman,” Laidlaw said. “Chris has a tremendous work rate, great pace and the ability to cause problems for any defense.”
Sophomore Victor Garcia will also get a look.
Central’s deepest position is the midfield. The Dutch have several options to lead the center of the core, beginning with Woodcock.
“We took a long look at Matt in the midfield and we believe he’s going to bring an added dimension to the team with somewhat more of an attacking role this year,” Laidlaw said.
Junior Daniel Peacock is a two-time second-team all-conference selection. He started all 19 games last year and had one goal and one assist.
“Daniel’s impact on our team goes without saying,” Laidlaw said. “He’s started since he was a freshman. His passing and ability to keep possession, added to the fact he’s a natural leader, make him one of our more valuable players on the team.”
Sophomore Mark Hentschel, recipient of the team’s Newcomer of the Year Award, shifted from the back midway through the season last year. He appeared in 19 games last year and started in 10, contributing one goal and one assist.
“We feel we can really utilize his strength as a player and we plan to use him more in the middle this year,” Laidlaw said. “Like Dan, he’s a great passer of the ball. He’s also strong in the air and he effectively controls the pace of the game.”
Junior Kyle Maynard appeared in seven games and will also challenge.
“Kyle might be one of our best-kept secrets, mainly because an injury hampered his first two years as a player,” Laidlaw said. “If he can stay healthy this year we think he can be a real creator for us.”
Senior Zach Jensen and sophomore Grand Wiseman are also in the mix.
“Zach was instrumental in leading the reserve squad to a league title last year,” Laidlaw said. “Grant made strides this spring and also has the potential to force his way onto the pitch.”
Central is even more well-stocked on the flanks.
“We’re excited about our depth with the wingers,” Laidlaw said. “Having two naturally left-footed players on the left side is a luxury.”
Junior Dillon Thornbury was in 14 games last year and had one goal and one assist. Sophomore Serge Sievertson rebounded from a preseason injury to appear in 12 games and start 11.
“Dillon and Serge will both effectively compete on the left side,” Laidlaw said.
Senior Brandon Bautista started 17 games last year and notched three goals and three assists.
“Brandon brings a great deal of experience having played the right-side consistently for us the last few years,” Laidlaw said.
Laidlaw is also looking at junior Jake Stein.
“He’s made good progress with the reserves and may be more ready to challenge for a varsity spot,” Laidlaw said.
Rebuilding the defense is an immediate preseason task. Central graduated two-time second-team all-league honoree Garrett Fooshee and honorable mention pick K.J. McQuerrey.
“Obviously graduating two starters creates opportunities and will give us a new look this year,” Laidlaw said. “We’ll have a host of players who will be vying for positions in that area.”
Four sophomores will get the first look. Nick Lutsch and Aleksandar Glavas both played 15 games last year and started six. Dennis Forrest appeared in 19 matches, starting four, and Brandon Fritz played 16 games and started two.
“They all gave us quality minutes as freshmen last year,” Laidlaw said.
Sorich is another possibility.
“We may look to slide Gary into a more central role where he can help lead the back line,” Laidlaw said.
Sophomores Andrew Harvey and Brian Fyfe could break through as well.
Freshmen Jeremy Dolder of Iowa City and Alec Scobbie of Jacksonville, Ill., add even more depth.
“Jeremy helped lead his team to a state title,” Laidlaw said. “We’re excited to see him and think he’s ready to make the leap to the college level. Alec is also coming off a successful high school career but may have to be brought on slowly due to an offseason injury.”
No position is more open than goalkeeper. The Dutch graduated last year’s starter David Ziemann.
Junior Travis Yets played 80 minutes last season and had three saves.
“Travis comes in having the most experience playing on the varsity team,” Laidlaw said.
Sophomore transfer Kristofor Johnson could make an early splash.
“He improved tremendously throughout the offseason,” Laidlaw said.
Freshmen Connor Ginder of Medford, Ore., and Joe Gioia of Plattsmouth, Neb., will also get looks.
“Both Connor and Joe will be looking to make an impact on the team and push the other players,” Laidlaw said.
Central’s non-conference schedule is peppered with perennial powerhouses including Wis.-Oshkosh, Washington (Mo.), Illinois Wesleyan and Elmhurst (Ill.).
The league slate doesn’t provide any relief. Both Loras College and Luther College advanced to the national tournament last year.
“The rest of the league has gotten better and we’re ever-closer if not there to saying that our league is competitive from top to bottom,” Laidlaw said. “There are no longer any easy matches in the Iowa Conference and we’ll treat each one as such.”
But the demanding schedule is somewhat lightened by having 12 home games.
“The home-friendly schedule will hopefully ease the burden on players and their approach to their play,” Laidlaw said. “We’ve got a beautiful home pitch and it will be nice to take full advantage of that and try to play the style of soccer we believe in.”