Aug. 25, 2006
The Lions open their season with possibly their toughest challenge of 2006- playing at #2 Connecticut. LMU and UConn will battle on Saturday night at 7:00pm EST. The Lions wrap up their first of two New England trips with Central Connecticut State on Monday afternoon. Gametracker will be available for both games on www. LMULions.com.
The Huskies enter the 2006 ranked #2 in the NSCAA/adidas poll. UConn finished up 2005 with a 16-3-2 record, winning the Big East for the second straight year. The Huskies return preseason All-American defender Julius James, as well as their top two leading scorers from a year ago. Overall, UConn returns six starters and loses five. The Lions should play in front of a large crowd, as the Huskies averaged 2328 in their home games last year at Joseph J. Morrone Stadium.
About Central Connecticut
The Blue Devils finished the 2005 season with an 8-6-3 record and placed second in the Northeast Conference. They return two-time Conference Player of the Year and preseason All-American Alex Harrison. CCSU returns six starters and loses five from a year ago.
The Lions showed fans a glimpse into the season when they tied UCLA 3-3 in a preseason exhibition at Sullivan Field on Sunday, August 20th. Both teams had their starters play a majority of the first 45 minute period, and the game remained scoreless. Once both teams put a significant number of starters on the bench, the goals were scored quickly. UCLA took advantage of an LMU defensive miscue that resulted in an own goal to take a 1-0 lead. Just 30 seconds later, it was a 2-0 game as the Bruins scored. The Lions did not back down and Adam Sloustcher tied the game on a penalty kick. Trini Gomez put in the equalizer to cap a five minute span that saw four goals being scored. Brad Stisser gave LMU the 3-2 lead in the 83rd minute on a free kick. UCLA tied the game with two minutes on the clock in the 103rd minute and the game ended in a 3-3 draw. LMU controlled the final 60 minutes of the game, outshooting UCLA 8-4. Stisser ended the game with a goal and an assist, and drew the penalty kick that set up LMU's first goal.
"This is the year I've been waiting for," said LMU head coach Paul Krumpe when asked about the 2006 LMU season ahead of him.
A quick glance at the team supports Krumpe's high expectations. LMU returns eight players who started at least 10 games last year, including seven of its top 10 scorers and six All-WCC players. The 2005 Lions recorded three wins over top-10 teams, but inconsistency hurt the team as it finished with a disappointing 8-8-4 record and had its streak of four NCAA Tournament appearances snapped.
"Last year was a disappointment. However, on a 30 man roster, we had two seniors. There¹s a lot to be said for the experience that we bring into this season," Krumpe commented.
"This is the first time since I¹ve been here that we are capable of putting out a top 11 of just juniors and seniors. In the past, we've had to count on freshmen and sophomores for significant minutes throughout the season."
Those freshmen and sophomores are juniors and seniors this season, and their talent and experience should provide for a more consistent result on the field.
"I have some high expectations for our returners, and if we can avoid injuries, I expect to win the West Coast Conference title and go deep into the NCAA Tournament," Krumpe said.
The Lion midfield attack is one of the most talented and experienced in the country. Leading the way is Junior Ybarra, a third team All-Region and first team All-WCC selection a year ago. The experienced senior has controlled the field as a defensive midfielder for the last three years but will utilize his talents in a more offensive role this season. With 15 career assists (6th all-time in LMU history), the Lion offense should be celebrating a lot this season.
Trini Gomez, the team's leading scorer a year ago, returns to the Lion midfield ready to continue his scoring ways. He finished the season with 6 goals and 4 assists a year ago, and will be looked upon to have another strong season.
The LMU midfield corps should benefit tremendously from the addition of two transfers. Adam Sloustcher joins the Lions from the University of North Carolina and will step into the role that Ybarra previously held of defensive midfielder. The former member of the US Under-18 and Under 17 National Teams should provide a big boost to the Lion midfield and defensive units.
Brad Stisser transfers to LMU from Coastal Carolina and will add strength to the group of attacking midfielders. He joined the Lions in the spring after playing in 19 games with 11 starts (1 goal, 3 assists) with the Chanticleers as a freshman.
"Our core of attacking midfielders should provide LMU with possibly the best attacking midfield in the country," said Krumpe.
"The freshman should have ample time to develop their abilities without being forced to produce right away," Krumpe commented.
The LMU defense is another area of the team with plenty of experience. A relatively new unit in 2005, the Lion backline gelled as the season went along, and returns three players who started at least 17 games last year.
A new face to the LMU defense, but not to Lion fans, is Bobby Burling. One of LMU's top scorers in school history, Burling will use his height and strength to frustrate opposing offensive players this season.
"The biggest news in our defense is the transition of Bobby to center back. He had a stellar spring in that position and the nucleus in the back has gelled as a unit," said Krumpe.
That nucleus includes seniors Matthew Mejia and Michael Ogletree. Wide midfielders in 2004, both players moved to the back last year, and thrived. Mejia earned WCC honorable mention honors and Ogletree was named the team's most improved player. Ogletree continued to contribute in the offense, scoring one of the biggest goals of the season with the game-winner at #5 Santa Clara and adding two assists.
Stephen Carlson patrolled the defense last season and also earned WCC honorable mention honors. He will team with Burling to organize the Lion defense in 2006.
The Lion defense also boasts tremendous depth with sophomore Jawaan Delaney who also earned WCC honorable mention accolades last season in addition to being named to the WCC All-Freshman team.
Sophomores Alex Proano, Bo Miller and Garrett Maloney saw considerable playing time a year ago and should continue to add depth to the Lions. Andrew Kristof is coming off of a redshirt season and will help the Lions in 2006.
One of the most exciting players on the LMU roster highlights an experienced and talented group of forwards. Diego Barrera, one of LMU's top scorers in 2004, was on pace for another breakout year before a knee injury ended his season after just six games. But in those six games, he made his mark. He registered a goal and four assists, earning WCC Player of the Week, Soccer America Team of the Week, and UC Irvine All-Tournament honors.
His play was instrumental in LMU's 2-1 win over #10 UC Santa Barbara a year ago, as he entertained the crowd with moves that left the defenders standing still.
Niemeyer moves to the front after serving as a wide midfielder last year. He has tremendous pace and is coming off of a strong summer in the PDL.
Joe Stoakley returns for his senior year with the Lions and adds experience and size to the Lion forwards. Tyler Mehl was slowed by injuries in 2005 but looks to return to his freshman year form when he scored four goals.
Midfielders Blanco and Stisser can also move into the front line and give the Lions another dimension. Freshman Andrew Morris will be counted on as the year goes on for valuable minutes up front.
"We have a deep and versatile group of attacking players," Krumpe noted.
Robert Flores returns for his senior year with 37 starts in his career. Last season, he started 18 of 20 games, with three shutouts and a 1.23 GAA. His leadership and experience in the back should benefit the Lions tremendously.
While Flores enters the season as LMU's top keeper, he will be pushed by a talented trio. Sophomore Miguel Benitez started two games last season, performing admirably. Patrick Sampson returns after a redshirt season last year and will push for playing time. Freshman Patrick Lane rounds out the group of netminders for the Lions.
"We have ridiculous depth at goalkeeper. All four of our keepers are capable of starting at any other school. We're blessed with a tremendous amount of talent at that position," said Krumpe.
As always, LMU's schedule should prepare them to go deep into the postseason. Coach Krumpe welcomes the challenge to play several of the top teams in the nation.
After starting with an exhibition against crosstown rival UCLA, the Lions travel across the country for the first of two New England trips. A game with national power Connecticut is the season opener. LMU will take on Central Connecticut before its home opener with Big East opponent Marquette. A week later, the team heads back east again to face Ivy League Harvard and Rhode Island.
The Lions continue their exciting series with UC Santa Barbara in a Friday night matchup before concluded their non-conference schedule with a home game against Cal Baptist.
The West Coast Conference schedule of round robin play will provide many thrilling games for the fans at Sullivan Field. Highlights include a matchup with San Francisco on October 6th and the regular season finale with Santa Clara on October 29th.
"The West Coast Conference is wide open this year. There are several emerging programs and the perennial powers are as tough as ever," Krumpe concluded.