By Meredith Cook
Special to GoHolyCross.com
After completing the 2009 season with three straight wins against Patriot League opponents and just missing a bid to the conference tournament, Holy Cross men's soccer coach Ted Priestly is aiming to extend the way his team came together at the end of his inaugural season. "I see this year as being one of transition but also one of expectation," said Priestly about his second season. "We've all put a lot of work into our program and in player development. After a fantastic winter and spring, with both our returning players and the incoming class, I believe we have the capability to reach our goal, which is to win and to win well."
Priestly believes that the 2010 team has already brought back to campus what he expects out of a winning soccer squad. "All of our kids are coming back in great shape; and that is the first step in achieving our goals." The 2010 Crusaders return 15 letterwinners, including nine starters, and welcome an 11-deep incoming class.
Priestly also wants to focus on the entire process that leads to winning games. "I expect everyone to show up every day, improve from what they learned the previous day and prove to everyone the competitive spirit and fight that earns the results that we may have not ended up with last year."
One big challenge facing the team is the loss of starting goalkeeper Thomas Booth, who played every game for the Crusaders last season and ended his four-year career as one of the top keepers in program history, leaving his mark as a career record holder in shutouts and goals against average. "Thomas was definitely our go-to guy, not only on the field but in a leadership standpoint as well," remarks Priestly. "Our current upperclassmen have certainly all contributed to help fill that leadership void. As far as the goalkeeper is concerned, Evan Polanik (Holliston, Mass.) had a great spring and is coming out as a fantastic, accomplished young goalkeeper. He has ability but also has personality to play and lead." As a sophomore, Polanik enters the 2010 season as a brand new face to the Holy Cross net. The Massachusetts native did not see any action last season but has made the most improvement over the spring, while newcomer Kevin Meinert (Toms River, N.J.) and junior Diego Terrero (Caracas, Venezuela) will also vie for playing time as the team's rock in goal.
Remaining with Priestly's philosophy of the best 11 players will play; the 2010 Crusaders defense boasts the most familiar faces. Senior Tom Van Grinsven (Chicago, Ill.) returns after starting in every contest last season, as he was named a Brine Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week after recording his first career goal. Senior Matt Beckley (Congers, N.Y.), and juniors Vincent Garofalo (Glenwood, Md.) and Joe Whittaker (Dallas, Texas) also come back on the defensive side of the ball as starters returning to a team that allowed just 18 goals in 234 shot attempts last season. Also jockeying for positions will be freshmen Dane Kenny (Williston Park, N.Y.) and Nolan McKeever (Lilburn, Ga.), who both captained their high school squads as seniors.
Sophomore Pat McCann (Rockville Centre, N.Y.) emerges as one of the team's most reliable and responsible midfield players after starting 11 contests and posting an assist as a freshman. "Pat was one of our most consistent players, even as a freshman," Priestly believes. "We look for him to continue that."
Senior Kyle Miller (Woodbury, N.J.) may also step up big in the center midfield position after playing as a true forward last season. Miller led the team in points (7) in 2009 and has shown a greater versatility coming out of the spring. "Kyle has proven his ball-winning capability, his leadership and his ability to score goals from any position," says Priestly.
"We also have a really solid group of attacking midfielders, including Tony Rosales (Aurora, Colo.), Shane Regan (Quincy, Mass.) and Joey Curran (Salem, Va.)," Priestly expresses. Rosales, a junior, made 10 starts last season, recording one goal while Regan, a sophomore, opened up his collegiate career with two goals and a team leading .400 shot percentage. Curran, who marked six starts at midfield last year, also improved greatly over the spring, winning the team's fitness contest. Freshmen Monty Sanders (Temecula, Calif.) and Tommy Uttaro (Staten Island, N.Y.) will also bring a different dimension to the midfield position. "These two have already demonstrated play-making and goal scoring abilities that I have hoped for," adds Priestly.
Senior Jonathan Werth (University Park, Md.) also returns to the team as a leading point scorer, marking three goals for six points last season. Sophomore Steven Stefanak (Massapequa, N.Y.) emerges from a strong spring season as well after making 14 appearances as a freshman. "Steven led the team in scoring this past spring and will definitely make noise on offense for us, while Jon has become a very versatile player, proving that he can make plays from any angle of the front field." Freshmen Joshua Cintas (San Diego, Calif.) and Kevin O'Connell (Basking Ridge, N.J.) are also ready to compete for the starting striker positions.
"The best part about this team is that we really have two players that can and will fight for every position," says Priestly. "I have no doubt that every single one of the guys on the roster is ready and hungry to play. It's up to them to show everyone else who will be the top 11 on a very improved Holy Cross men's soccer team."
With a full roster of 26 talented players, and a focus on the day in, day out, hard work ethic, the main expectation for this year's squad is to create a winning environment that will lay the foundation for a successful Holy Cross soccer program. "With all things considered, I think we should expect that we have a chance to win every game," believes Priestly.
The team starts off the season with a road challenge, as nine away contests open up the 2010 slate, starting Sept. 1 with a ride to play Sacred Heart. Priestly views the nine-game trip, which also includes two tournament showings, one on the campus of Dartmouth and the other at Northwestern, as a way for the team to really get to know each other. "When you're on the road you really have time to bond, to spend quality time together and integrate together as a team."
The season also features contests with some of the premier teams in nation, including Harvard, Boston College and Northwestern. While they may present themselves as major challenges, the 2010 team will make sure to put its best effort forth in all events and fight to return to the Patriot League tournament, set for Nov. 12 and 14. The top four teams in the final regular season standings will take part in the tournament, with Holy Cross looking to make the field of four for the first time in the Priestly era.