The Coast Guard men's soccer team is coming off its fourth Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC) New England Championship in the last 18 years. After the Bears lost just one starter from their 2012 squad optimism surrounds the 2013 season.
The Bears were selected to finish fourth among the league's eight teams, according to a preseason poll conducted by the NEWMAC's eight men's soccer head coaches. They received one first place vote, while perennial favorite Babson received five and MIT and Wheaton garnered one apiece.
The team will be led again by 12th-year head coach Chris Parsons (Middlebury, '87). Parsons, the 2012 NEWMAC Coach of the Year, has amassed a record of 96-86-21 in 11 seasons at Coast Guard. That record, combined with a stops at Vassar College and Champlain College, account for a career mark of 180-144-30 in 20 years as a head coach.
The Bears will face a challenging schedule once again this season. As always the Bears will face the rigors of their New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) schedule. This will include match-ups with a pair of NCAA Tournament teams from a season ago as Coast Guard will welcome Babson for a September 21st contest and travel to MIT on October 5th.
They will also be guaranteed two more games against NCAA Tournament teams with visits to both Albertus Magnus and Eastern Connecticut on October 8th and 22nd, respectively. There is a chance for one more game against a tournament team in the St. Joseph's (L.I.) Tournament against the host Eagles, depending on opening-round results. The Bears will also welcome three new teams to the schedule when they play SUNY-New Paltz at the Long Island Tournament, host NEWMAC newcomer Emerson, and then they travel for a game at Nichols.
Experience will be a key for Coast Guard as the returners have a combined 332 starts between them. Last year's team went 13-6-2, including an impressive 4-1-1 record against the always-tough NEWMAC. Senior Joseph Bodzewski is the leading returning scorer for the Bears, after tallying five goals and an assist for 11 points as a junior. Classmate Matt Epperly has seven career goals with three coming in each of the past two seasons. Those two, as well as senior Bobby Copeland (3 goals, 1 assist) and sophomore Lukas Benedetto (1 goal) will be expected to anchor the offense.
The midfield is deep and strong this year for the Bears. Two NEWMAC All Conference players, Senior John Rendon (3 goals, 3 assists) and junior Matt Bogdan (1 goal, 6 assists) are joined by Senior Walter Heaney, junior Robert Chamberlain and Sophomore Alex Lane.
In the defense, returners Junior John Tarzian (4 goals, 1 assist), Junior John Ray and Senior Kyle Grell will be difficult to break down. Senior Andrew Jaeger and sophomore Jason Kingsley will look to win the 4th spot at the back.
2012 First Team All NEWMAC selection Junior Richie Burns will return in goal for the Bears after posting impressive numbers in his sophomore season, including a 12-4-2 record, eight shutouts, and a miniscule 0.76 goals against average. Burns will be pushed by Senior Carlos Gonzalez, who is 3-0-0 for his career and has made 10 saves without surrendering a single goal.
Leadership responsibilities for the upcoming season will be placed with senior captains John Epperly and John Rendon. Epperly, a forward from Fredericksburg, Va., has started in 32 of the 51 games in which he's appeared, including all 20 of his appearances a season ago. Said Coach Parsons, of Epperly, "Matt has worked hard in the offseason to gain strength and will be a challenge for many opposing defenses this year. I am looking forward to watching him have the opportunity to lead as a first class cadet." Rendon is a midfielder from West Harwich, Mass. has played in 54 career games, starting in 46 of those that he's played. Coach Parsons states, "Jake is a returning captain for the team. His leadership and work rate set the example for the whole team to follow. He is driven to succeed!"
With such a high number of players returning from last year's squad as well as the addition of seven freshmen, competition is bound to be fierce at a number of key positions.
Coast Guard will begin their season on Friday, August 30th when they host the Huskies of Southern Maine. Kickoff is set for 6:00 at the Coast Guard Academy's Track and Field Complex.