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2004 Binghamton Men's Soccer Preview


Twelve months ago, little was expected from the Binghamton men’s soccer team. Coming off a 6-11-1 campaign in 2002, the Bearcats had a roster with just seven upperclassmen and were picked to finish eighth in the America East Conference. Binghamton’s modest goal was to make the six-team America East Conference Tournament.

As Binghamton gets ready for the 2004 season, things could not be more different. The Bearcats were the surprise team in the nation last season, winning the America East Conference title and advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

As a result of last season’s success, Binghamton is the favorite to repeat as conference champions and is ranked No. 22 in the nation in both the College Soccer News and the NSCAA/adidas preseason polls. In short, the Bearcats have gone from being the hunter to the hunted.

“Being nationally-ranked in both preseason polls is helping (people) to recognize all of our hard work and commitment,” head coach Paul Marco said. “We are excited to start the season and are working hard to finish the season still being ranked in both polls.”

To achieve that goal, Binghamton’s challenge is to replace four key leaders of last year’s squad with a new group of promising players. In addition, the Bearcats must maintain the same work ethic and level of desire as they had last season.

“We had a competitive fire last season that we need to carry over into this year,” Marco said. “Our seniors were largely responsible for that and now we need new people to step up.”

GOALKEEPERS

Junior goalkeeper Stefan Gonet returns after a monumental 2003 season. He was named first-team America East all-conference and was the Most Outstanding Player in the conference tournament. He posted 16 shutouts and allowed a microscopic 0.38 goals against average. Backing up Gonet are sophomore Ryan Bertoni and redshirt sophomore Phil Grommet.

"We have been satisfied with the play of our goalkeepers during preseason,” Marco said. “They know how to organize the defense and have been able to anticipate shots before they happen.”

BACKS

Binghamton lost two starters on defense but have several newcomers ready to step in and keep things going. Junior Graham Munro is the top veteran in this group. Munro has been named first-team America East all-conference the past two years and was named the America East Conference Defender of the Year last season. He was also named to the NSCAA All-New York Region team.

The other returning starter in the backfield is fellow junior Darius Ravengard. Redshirt senior Mike Austin, who missed all of last season but was one of the team leaders in 2002, moves from the midfield to the back line. Juniors Joe Howe and Ryan Pierce, both of whom transferred from Herkimer CC, will be counted on to step in and contribute right away. Junior Luc Vallone and sophomore Zach Kneeland, both of whom have had excellent preseasons, could have more of a role this season. Freshman Matthew Narode rounds out the backfield.

"We will be different this season in the backfield,” Marco said. “We will be more technical because we will be able to possess the ball more. Last year’s group had a lot of fire and we need the same from the backfield this season.”

MIDFIELD

With three all-conference players, Marco and his staff have reason to feel confident about the midfield. Junior Danilo, who was named second-team all-conference last season, and sophomore Bryan Arnault, who was named to the all-rookie team, are the top returning starters. In addition, redshirt sophomore Kyle Antos, who was named to the 2002 all-rookie team, returns healthy this season. Sophomore Mark Deemer also returns at midfield.

Freshman Adam Chavez, a NSCAA high school All-America from nearby Union-Endicott High School, should fit into the mix right away. Sophomores Tom Fahl and Jesse Spiro are the other newcomers. In addition, both Howe and Narode can play in the midfield as well as on defense.

"We should be pretty good at midfield,” Marco said. “We have four returners and Adam will give us a very strong presence."

FORWARDS

The Bearcats have three proven scorers, including a pair of all-conference players, returning at forward. Seniors Stephen Bruce and Charles Darkwah, both of whom were named second-team all-conference last season, return along with sophomore Joey Neilson.

Darkwah led the squad with seven goals and 15 total points. Bruce and Neilson had five goals apiece. Freshmen Dan Rabinowitz, who was an NSCAA high school All-American as a junior, and Pat Jones, are the top newcomers.

"Having three targets up front is going to give other teams trouble,” Marco said. “It creates a lot of opportunities for us.”

SCHEDULE

With only six home games this season, the Bearcats will have to continue their success on the road. Last season, they lost just once as the visiting team-against then No. 4 St. Louis in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
This year, Binghamton has a dangerous opener against Marist on Wednesday, Sept. 1 at 7 p.m. The Red Foxes handed the Bearcats a last-minute 2-1 defeat in 2003.
Other non-conference games come against Canisius, Buffalo, Philadelphia, St. Joseph’s and Niagara. Only the game against the Bonnies will be at the West Gym Field.
In conference play, the Bearcats will travel to Boston, Vermont, Maine and Northeastern. Home conference games come against Vermont, Hartford, New Hampshire, UMBC and Stony Brook.



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