133-67-13 (.654) record since 2001
PELLA—The Center College men’s soccer team, led by 16th-year head coach Garry Laidlaw, is determined to turn last year’s surprise Iowa Conference tournament run into a consistent success.
For the second-straight season, the Dutch advanced to the Iowa Conference tournament as the No. 6 seed, and thus, faced a challenging three-game road trip to the championship. But unlike any season before, Central surprised opponents by advancing to the championship game. The Red and White tied Luther 0-0 in the first round, but advanced 4-3 on penalty kicks. The Dutch avenged a mid-season loss versus Dubuque with a 2-1, double-overtime win in the semifinals. In the championship game Loras, ranked fourth in the nation, escaped 2-1. The Dutch finished the season with an 8-10-3 overall record.
“Looking back at the regular season, I think our record was somewhat misleading and many factors went into it,” Laidlaw said.
Through the ups and downs, the coaching staff remained positive, he said.
“We always felt that team had something about it. We made it into the postseason under the radar, got healthy, caught a flier and peaked at the right time. All of the things that you need to come together came together for us. It made for a really exciting playoff run.”
Laidlaw faces the task of replacing a large portion of the Dutch scoring this year. A large recruiting class and individual improvement in the summer may fill those voids.
“There is absolutely room for players to make an impact,” said Laidlaw. “Whether it is returning players or incoming freshmen or playing in different positions, there are opportunities to make things happen this year.
“We have four seniors who are all on the same page in terms of leadership and vision. That will be a huge factor for us this year. They are all friends who have grown in the program and are ready to take us one step further.”
The team found success off the field, as well.
“For a number of years, our men have been striving for a 3.0 team grade point average,” said Laidlaw. “We scared it a few times in the past, but last year, for the first time ever, we achieved a 3.0 GPA as a team. It was another first, along with making the championship game, and speaks to what that team was all about. It speaks to the type of people and high-character individuals we have in this program right now. It speaks to the legacy we can carry on.”
The team GPA qualified the men for the team academic award as handed out by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.
Central graduated Travis Yets, who started all 21 games in goal in 2012, including five games that ended in shutouts, and saved 80 shots. Sophomore Connor Ginder and junior Kristofor Johnson are the two returning goalkeepers on the books.
“Replacing Yets is going to be a task for us, yet we are very excited,” said Laidlaw. “We have some great incoming talent that we believe can compete for the job right away. Ginder came in last year as a freshman and saw the most action behind Yets. He got some exposure to college-level soccer, seeing action in six games, totaling 122 minutes and eight saves. Ginder is excited about the challenge to compete for the starting job. Johnson played in Wales last spring while on Central’s study abroad program.
“There are three freshman goalies ready to compete. Josh Carpenter from Sterrett, Ala., Austin Little from Des Moines and Ben Robertson from here in Pella. In addition, senior Tim Maggard from Torrance, Calif., returns after a hiatus.”
“We feel we have added depth to the team this year,” Laidlaw said. “Although we graduated a great leader and captain in Gary Sorich, we return three men who played extensively in the back last season. So, we have more experience and we feel that we have a good crop of incoming players.”
Juniors Brian Fyfe, Aleksandar Glavas and Nick Lutsch, along with sophomores Jeremy Dolder and Alec Scobbie, are all positioned to compete for time on the back line.
“Jeremy, Brian, Aleks and Nick all played extensive minutes last year,” said Laidlaw. “Dolder missed some significant time with injury, but he did return for the playoff run. The other three played a lot for us. Fyfe came in as the least-known player and by the end of the season he was one of our most reliable defenders.
“Peter Cui, John Jamison, Nick Kuntz, Kyle Langstraat, Coleman Neil, E.J. Schroder and Owen Shawgo all look to contend for places and should add depth to our roster,” said Laidlaw.
The middle of the field provides fewer question marks for the Dutch. The lineup is anchored by senior captain Dan Peacock, who started all 21 games last season.
“Dan is one of our senior captains and he’s has done it all for us,” Laidlaw said. “He is a great player who leads by example and performs consistently well for us”.
Seniors Kyle Maynard and Dillon Thornbury and juniors Dennis Forrest and Mark Hentschel make up the veteran midfield.
“Forrest had a tremendous season,” said Laidlaw. “Hentschel also lost a significant amount of time last season to injury. We are excited to have him back at full strength this year. Maynard came on towards the end of last season and can give us that added creative presence. He’ll serve as Dan’s co-captain. Thornbury is a left-sided, left-footed player who provides needed balance to the squad.”
All four players started at least half of the team’s games, with Forrest joining Peacock as a 21-game starter.
“Other returners at midfield include junior Grant Wiseman and sophomores Nate Holte, Surafel Woldemariam and Gavin Macdonald,” Laidlaw said. “Newcomers include junior Regan Baker and freshmen Adelmo Marchiori IV and Josh Farris.”
On the offensive end of the field, Central lost the top four point scorers on the team and five of the top six. Defender Aleksandar Glavas is the top returning point scorer with nine points on four goals and one assist.
“The void we most have to fill is certainly up top,” said Laidlaw. “We graduated our top four forwards, which will create some healthy competition in pre-season. We look forward to helping develop some players from this group to fill those roles.”
There are a couple of returning options in junior Victor Garcia and senior Jake Stein. “Stein was the only senior (on the squad) on campus last spring and did a great job of leading the team,” said Laidlaw. “He is the ultimate team player. He's very coachable and has great athletic ability.”
Laidlaw also has an intriguing newcomer. Spencer Boeyink, a junior, has joined the team for the first time after two years as a talented starting defensive back for the Dutch football team.
“Spencer had a solid soccer career in high school,” Laidlaw said. “We are excited he decided to join the team. He could provide some spark for our team.”
Garry Laidlaw is assisted by Central women’s soccer head coach and former Dutch all-region standout Mike Kobylinski, and a former head coach Greg Walter, who works primarily with the goalkeepers.
Kobylinski recently engineered the fourth-best turnaround in Division III women’s soccer (from 2010 to 2011) and led the women’s soccer team to the program’s first back-to-back 10-plus-win seasons.
Walter served as head coach for two collegiate soccer programs: MacMurray (Ill.) and William Penn.
“I feel blessed and so fortunate to have, essentially three head coaches on staff,” Laidlaw said. “Greg did a phenomenal job last year with Yets, who was our third-string goalie and improved to second team all-conference. Our goalies will enjoy working with Greg. The fact that he was a head coach at the collegiate level only helps us more with other aspects in the team. Mike, with his passion, personality and excitement, helps foster a great atmosphere within the team. We all work very well together and I think it seeps through the squad.”
Central’s demanding 18-game schedule includes 10 road games, beginning with a non-conference contest at traditional powerhouse Washington-St. Louis (Mo.).
“Opening up with Washington-St. Louis is a challenging way to start, in a good way,” said Laidlaw. “We had a good match with them last year and we wanted to start the season with a high-caliber, good soccer-playing team. We think it is a great way to prepare us for the conference schedule.”
Central hosts Grinnell in its home opener and second game of the season on Sept. 3. Seven more non-conference games follow, including four in Illinois, before the start of the conference season versus Simpson on Sept. 28. The Dutch host three games in travel-heavy October, including Wartburg (Oct. 12), Nebraska Wesleyan (Oct. 15) and defending conference champion Loras in the regular season finale on Oct. 29.
“There are a few reasons for mixing in non-conference games during the conference season,” said Laidlaw. “The conference schedule had some gaps in it and we do not like to go too many days without playing. So, we filled it in with quality non-conference opponents. It also gives us the chance to tweak our tactics and sometimes rest players who might be dealing with significant injuries.”
Laidlaw is increasingly impressed with the league.
“The Iowa Conference has gradually gotten better and better and I do not see it being any different this year,” Laidlaw said. “Our conference has a team that made it to the final four and there are a number of other teams chasing them every year, including ourselves. We are ready and excited for it. We feel that we are a true team and we learned last year that it takes a team to make a run in this league. The quality players and individuals we have put us in a good position to contend again this year.”
A.N. Kuyper Athletics Complex field
Major seating improvements are planned for Central’s soccer field at the A.N. Kuyper Athletics Complex.
“Fan support makes a huge difference,” said Laidlaw. “We are so excited about our upcoming stadium project, which will finish off what we feel is one of the best facilities in college soccer. We had such great support last season, both at home and on the road, which helped greatly in the playoff run.”
The Dutch kick off the 2013 campaign at Washington-St. Louis in St. Louis, Mo., on Aug. 30 at 7:30 p.m.