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With a new coach and a solid group of returnees, the men's soccer team is looking to make a solid first impression among the ranks of the newly-formed Northern Athletics Conference.
Dave Madsen, who spent the last three years assisting the men's and women's programs at UW-Whitewater, assumes command of the Muskies for his first season as head coach. He has high hopes for this year's squad that returns the majority of its roster, many who saw significant playing time last season.
"This year provides the guys with a great opportunity," Madsen said. "They're chomping at the bit to make a breakthrough to the winning side of things."
Last fall, the Muskies were plagued by misfortune in multiple games where victory eluded them. The team finished fourth in the Lake Michigan Conference and compiled a 6-8-4 overall record after falling 2-0 to
This fall, the squad's roster is stacked with experience in the field positions, plus three seasoned seniors in Scott Kress (Kiel/Kiel), Corey Petzold (Kiel/Kiel) and Sam Schroeder (
"This is their year," said Madsen of his leaders. "They put a lot of thought into how they wanted things to go this year. Those guys are going to be a big part of our success."
The Muskies will miss the strong leadership of the defensive duo of
"We have some growing pains to go through," Madsen admitted. "But Corey and Sam have been taking on the challenge pretty well. Something we'll rely on this year is their leadership in back."
The Muskies will look to Kress (a three-year All-LMC honoree) to lead the way on offense and raise the team's level of play all around.
"He could get moved around between forward and middle," said Madsen. "He's a real asset to the team no matter where he plays."
Kress has already re-written the record books during his
Despite the wealth of returnees, the Muskies have to contend with the paradox of not having an experienced goalie on their roster. Junior
"It's been about as smooth of a transition as I could have hoped for," Madsen said. "He's such a hard worker, which actually made him perfect for the position. He's such a committed guy on and off the field that he came into mind right away."
The Muskies will also rely on sophomore Ted Cormier (Green Bay/Preble) to be another key threat on the attack, possibly making the transition from midfield to forward. He had a break-out freshman year that saw him lead the team in scoring with six goals and earn spots on both the LMC Honorable Mention and All-Rookie Team lists.
Sophomore Kevin Fitchett (Green Bay/Preble) will also be a force as he netted three goals and assisted on three others as a freshman and earned a spot on the LMC All-Rookie Team.
"He'll definitely see some time," stated Madsen. "He could even play on the left at midfield."
Controlling the turf at midfield will be juniors Zach Buchman (Waterford/Waterford Union) and Tom Claas (DeForest/LaFollette), who will likely man the center.
Buchman tied for second in goals scored last season with five and also chipped in one assist, earning him Honorable Mention All-LMC honors.
"Zach is just a constant work horse up and down the field," Madsen said. "He works so hard to make sure the job gets done."
The defensive experience of Petzold and Schroeder will be invaluable to the Muskies' back line, considering Condon is a newcomer in goal.
"Their leadership will help us through some tight spots if we ever get into them," said Madsen.
Junior Tyler Haug (Milwaukee/Thomas Moore) will also aid the team's backfield force as he is showing a good deal of strength at left back.
The Muskies will get a lift from a talented cast of newcomers, several of which are showing signs of becoming immediate impact players.
Madsen expects freshmen Steve Hogins (
"Steve has done well during preseason and should be able to step in at midfield," Madsen said. "
Another newcomer, junior Hoang Dang (
Madsen is optimistic about the Muskies' chances in the NAC this season, despite a host of traditionally tough schools that make up the new league. Madsen said Dominican, Aurora,
"I think we'll be right in the mix," he said. "If we can climb into the top three or four in conference, it would be a good achievement for the year. It's very close between the top teams. One day we could be second or third in the standings, the next day we could be ninth or 10th. It's all about how you play from day to day."
The Muskies open with
Overall, Madsen is encouraged by the enthusiasm his players have shown early and stresses the importance of the entire team working together to accomplish their goals.
"The guys have such a passion for the game," Madsen said. "It's just a matter of harnessing it and putting it in the right direction and keeping everyone on the same page. It's one of our biggest assets that will lead to success."