Coming off a NESCAC Tournament finals appearance, which saw the Wesleyan University men's soccer team defeat No. 1 seed Amherst College on its way to the title game, head coach Geoff Wheeler has high expectations for this year's club. Wheeler, who has a record of 148-98-29 in 18 seasons at the helm of the program, will look to senior captains and four-year starters Danny Rubenstein and Charlie Gruner to help lead the team to another NESCAC title appearance, this time with a different outcome.
With seven home games and eight road games, the Cardinals will open their season with three non-conference contests before opening conference play on September 17 against Bowdoin at home as they look to improve on their 2015 record, which saw them go 8-8-2 and 3-6-1 in NESCAC action. They will open the season Tuesday, September 6 at 4 p.m. when they head to Willimantic, Conn. to take on Eastern Connecticut State University. Wheeler believes this game is important, not just because Eastern defeated the Cardinals last year, 1-0 at home, but because it will set the tone for the rest of the season.
MEET THE TEAM
Wesleyan graduated six players from last year's squad, five of whom started throughout the majority of the season. Their void will be filled by the five seniors who are ready to bring the Cardinals their first NESCAC Championship since 2005. The senior class will be joined by eight juniors, six sophomores and seven freshmen. Adam Cowie-Haskell '18 will look to lead the offense, which lost their leader in goals and points from a year ago, Chris Kafina '16. Cowie-Haskell was second in both categories last season as he netted five goals and totaled ten points.
In net, Wesleyan returns Jack Katkavich '17, who registered a 7-6 record with four shutouts last season while playing in 1264:32 of 1709:45 minutes. Katkavich was one of the top goalkeepers in the league a year ago, and ranked fifth in four different categories: saves (61), save percentage (.836), goals against (12) and goals-against average (0.85).
Wheeler believes his team possesses the ability to be one of the top squads in the league, but the key will be to have more consistent play throughout the season. He believes his team is focused and poised to do what they need to do to achieve their high expectations.
"The NESCAC is the hardest conference in Division III," said Wheeler. "Every weekend you need to be ready, and if not you will come out on the short-end."