HOBOKEN, N.J. (August 27, 2012) – The Stevens Institute of Technology men’s soccer program will begin its 2012 season ranked No. 7 in the nation and as the preseason favorites to win its sixth-straight Empire 8 conference title. With six all-conference selections returning – including players who scored 35 of last season’s 45 goals – this year’s Ducks are reloaded for a promising season at Castle Point.
Also returning for 2012 is reigning Empire 8 Coach of the Year Devin Rensing, who led Stevens to the Regional Final of the NCAA Division III Men’s Soccer Championship in his first season at the helm of the program in 2011.
“We had a great season last year, with some senior leadership that we’ll certainly miss,” said Rensing. “There are some big shoes to fill but we have a lot of confidence in the current upperclassmen and their leadership abilities.”
The Ducks will begin the season highly regarded both nationally and regionally, but Rensing and the rest of the program are focused on their ambitions on the field.
“It’s flattering to be recognized in the preseason rankings, but that is just opinion and ultimately doesn’t really matter. What matters is what happens on the field,” said Rensing. “We just want to focus on playing the way that we want to play. If we do that we’re confident that the results will take care of themselves.”
Stevens returns all forwards from last season’s roster, notably senior Victor Daza (North Plainfield, N.J.), junior Stephen Dunbar (Johns Creek, Ga.) and reigning Empire 8 Player of the Year senior Zach Adler (McKinney, Texas). Between them, the three playmakers scored 67 points last season.
“We have a lot of attractive offensive options,” said Rensing. “We have the core of our offense from last year with returning Zach Adler, Victor Daza and Stephen Dunbar. Zach Adler picked up right where he left off last season and scored twice in our 3-1 pre-season win against Harvard, and Victor Daza and Stephen Dunbar are both sharp and hungry for goals.”
Sophomores Jonathan Stallone (Hicksville, N.Y.) and Quinn Conner (Newfield, N.H.) will also be on the wings battling for time and offering an offensive balance from the midline.
Junior classmates Curtis Stecyk (Boulder, Colo.) and Zeke Hemme (Louisville, Ky.) will be expected to anchor the center of the Stevens midfield. Stecyk had 10 points last season, including both goals in the Ducks’ upset win over No. 4 Amherst College in the Sweet 16. Hemme chipped in with a goal of his own last year. Sophomores Santiago Cabrera (Caracas, Venezuela) and Kevin Calloway (Sewell, N.J.) will also be in the mix in the middle.
“Center midfield is a very competitive position for us,” said Rensing. “Curtis Stecyk did a great job last year and Zeke Hemme has stepped up in the spring an early fall. Both Santi Cabrera and Kevin Calloway can also push for time in the middle.”
The Stevens defense allowed a total of 18 goals in 22 games last season, or just 0.8 goals against per match. Senior Matthew Riley (Jackson, N.J.) and junior Leonardo Casas (Kearny, N.J.) return to the back line after starting all 22 matches last season. Juniors Jasim Mobaidin (College Park, Md.) and Christian Grapel (Grass Valley, Calif.) also return and will battle for playing time.
Perhaps most conspicuously junior Edward Rupp (Sayville, N.Y.) will shift from the midfield to the defensive third of the field this season.
“We will look to return Matt Riley at center back, he was absolute rock in the middle last year and I don’t see that changing,” said Rensing. “Jasim Mobaidin has stepped up in center back and has nicely slid into the spot vacated by Anthony Roden (Red Creek, N.Y.). He anticipates the play well and does a great job of stepping into tackles. Junior Eddie Rupp has moved to the right back position and has done great. He goes in hard, he is athletic and is comfortable on the ball and goes forward well. On the left side, Leo Casas is a little banged up, but he and Christian Grapel should have a good competition once he gets back for the starting job.”
Paul Killian (Ellicott City, Md.) will play between the pipes for Stevens in 2012. The junior boasted a 0.75 goals-against average and won 16 games last season. Not counted in that victory total was perhaps his most clutch performance; the shootout against the College at Brockport in the NCAA Second Round where Killian came up with two huge saves to send the Ducks to the next round.
“We feel that Paul is one of the best goalkeepers in the nation,” said Rensing. “He’s a great leader and a soothing influence in the back and really on the entire team. We look for him to have another big year for us.”
All assistant coaches from last season return, namely Niko Gkionis, Zach Carr and Ben Tamberella. In addition, the Ducks will welcome a new assistant coach to the sidelines this year in Doug DeMartin. DeMartin was an Academic All-American striker at Michigan State University from 2005 through 2008. He led the Big Ten Champions with 37 points as a senior and played professionally with the Portland Timbers after graduation. He will mainly work with the Stevens forwards.
The Ducks have put together a challenging non-conference slate for 2012. The season opens with two games in Pittsburgh against Baldwin Wallace College and host Carnegie Mellon University. Drew University, TCNJ, NYU Polytechnic, Wilkes University and longtime rival United States Merchant Marine Academy highlight the non-conference home schedule for Stevens.
The Empire 8 expanded this season to add a new member in Houghton College, and the Ducks will play the Highlanders in the first conference match of the year on September 15. Stevens will have home dates with conference rivals Alfred University, Utica College and Elmira College and hit the road for a total of nine games.
“Again, we just want to focus on playing the way that we want to play,” said Rensing when asked what his goals were for the coming season. “When we are not playing our style it is important for us to identify that and get back to Stevens Soccer. We believe if we do that, the results will come.”