The Stetson men’s soccer team opens the 2013 season, its seventh under the leadership of head coach T. Logan Fleck, at home this Friday at 5:00 p.m. The Hatters will look to use a healthy combination of experience and youth to challenge for its third Atlantic Sun Conference Championship this fall.
“It brings energy,” Fleck said of the team of having 14 new players on the roster. “The new players have come in and have tried to prove themselves. They’re putting in a lot of effort, and pushing the older players. The energy has subsequently increased throughout the team.”
The Stetson squad isn’t entirely new. The Hatters return 10 upperclassmen from last season’s team, seven of which are seniors. Much of that experience can be found in the back. Starting with senior goalkeeper Andreas Schnabl, the Hatter defense will be leaned on for leadership in 2013.
“They are your anchor,” Fleck said of the back. “You weather the storms with your defense. Everyone looked at our attack over the years because that’s the end that you see the result, but the backbone of your team is the defense. That can really keep you together.”
With returning seniors JJ Bostic, Evan Jimmo, Raffaele Centofanti, and Chris Aguirre, as well as veteran JJ Lofthouse-Smith and senior transfer Chase Rodgers, all available to spend time in the back, the 2013 version of the Hatters will get things started with defense.
“There is certainly some familiarity in the returners, but there is also a lot of newness,” Fleck continued. “Most of that is up top. They’re still trying to figure things out. These guys are just starting to get to know each other, how they like the ball played, and where they should be running.”
Other than senior midfielder Steven Saballos and junior midfielder Dwight Lodge, it will be mostly newcomers seeing action through the midfield and forward positions. Junior Eli Beates was going play an integral role in the attack, but will start the season shelved with an injury.
Stetson will look to improve on last year’s record of 3-10-2 that saw that Hatters miss the A-Sun Tournament for the first time since 1997. The Hatters have won league championships in 2009 and 2005, and that’s exactly what Fleck aspires to do again in 2013.
“My expectations are always to go further than anyone thinks we can,” Fleck concluded. “I tell my team all the time that I’m going to write some big check, so it’s your job to cash them. I think the expectations stay high because the program is developing that way. I’m a very competitive person, and I want to see this program go to a point people don’t think it can get.”