To an outsider looking in it may appear that there are a lot of question marks for the Hobart College soccer team in the 2012 season. The Statesmen graduated 12 seniors, including three of their top five scorers and their starting goalie, however, this year’s team has set its sights on picking up where they left off in 2011 and making their seventh appearance in the NCAA tournament.
The Statesmen finished 2011 with a 16-4-0 record, including a 6-2-0 mark in the Liberty League. Hobart wrapped up the regular season riding a six-game win streak. The Statesmen were edged in the Liberty League tournament, but received an at-large bid to make the NCAA Playoffs for the sixth time in program history.
Head Coach Shawn Griffin is confident that this year’s Statesmen are an athletic, talented group of players that will step up and bring a balanced attack in every match. Hobart returns 15 players, including six starters, and welcomes 13 new players who will step into key roles for the Statesmen in 2012.
Griffin’s experienced returners include senior captains, Alex Kittelberger, Caetano Sanchez and Michael Moulton. Kittleberger earned All-Liberty League honorable mention last year and played in every game, starting all but three. He shared a team-high with four assists. A starter in every match, Sanchez tied for third on the 2011 team in scoring with eight points on three goals and two assists. He earned all-region and all-league honors last fall. Moulton battled through an injury in 2011, but played in eight matches. He notched two goals, including the game-winner on a penalty kick in the regular season finale against RIT.
Also back on the pitch for Hobart are seniors Taylor Jones, Will Abbott, Reuben Burk and Ian McGarty. Jones played a key role in the Statesmen defense last fall, playing in 13 games and notching an assist. Abbott tied for third on the team last season notching eight points on three goals and two assists. McGarty was also an offensive force for Hobart, logging two goals and three assists. Burk chipped in two goals and two assists in 15 games.
Juniors Eli Vitale and Kaeghan Kelly will also return for Hobart. Kelly was a critical member of the Statesmen defense. He saw time in every game last year, starting all but one. Kelly also made an impact offensively, sharing a team-high with four assists. Vitale played in 18 matches last year. He chipped in a goal and two assists.
Sophomores Ryan Lotzar, Kyle Herod, Bernard Abagali, Oddmund Nesbakk and Josh Galindez Webb will be expected to step into bigger roles this season with a year of experience under their belts. Herod returns after being one of just three Statesmen to start every contest last season. He played a key role in the Hobart defensive unit that recorded a 0.73 goals against average and secured 10 shutouts. Both Herod and Abagali garnered All-Liberty League honorable mention in their rookie seasons. Abagali played in 14 games, starting 11. He showed exceptional ball handling skills at the midfield position. Nesbakk saw time in 15 games, while Lotzar played in 14. Galidenz-Webb also played in 14 games and registered two assists.
The Statesmen return sophomore goalie Mike Lucas. He saw limited playing time last season, but is emerging as the leading candidate for the starting nod. In preseason, junior newcomer Mark Benya and first-year Tyler Serafine have been putting on a competitive battle for some time in goal.
In addition, Hobart welcomes 10 other first-years and a sophomore to the 2012 squad. The group includes five midfielders, two forwards and three defensemen who will bring even more depth and talent to the Statesmen roster.
Hobart will begin the 2012 season with a trip to Pittsburgh, where the Statesmen will take on Carnegie Mellon on Aug. 31 at 7:30 p.m. The next day, Hobart will play Baldwin Wallace at 5 p.m. The Statesmen’s home opener will be on Sept. 8, when they host Brockport on Cozzens Field at 2 p.m. Liberty League play begins on Sept. 22, when Hobart hosts Clarkson at 2 p.m.