LANCASTER, Pa. - After a 2010 season in which the Franklin & Marshall men's soccer team compiled a 9-4-3 record, finished second in the Centennial Conference regular season and was ranked as high as No. 23 in the nation by the NSCAA, head coach Dan Wagner and the Diplomats expect even bigger things in 2011.
Wagner enters his 10th season at the helm of the program this fall and will look to not only guide F&M to its eighth straight winning season, but also feels his squad has an opportunity to once again compete for the conference crown.
"We have very high expectations for this year, especially after the success of last season," said Wagner. "Even though this squad is comprised primarily of underclassmen, we feel we're poised for a run at the conference."
To make a run for the top spot in the Centennial, the Diplomats must find a way to supplant the losses of 2010 NSCAA All-Region standouts Charlie Welch and Zach Zamek. Welch anchored the defense and Zamek minded the net for a Diplomat defense that surrendered just 16 goals on the year and posted nine shutouts.
Despite the key losses, F&M returns eight starters and 14 letterwinners from last year. Headlining the returners are juniors Mike Irving and Eric Elicker along with sophomore Ben Beaver, each of whom started all 16 games last year.
Beaver, a 2010 First Team All-Centennial selection, will lead the way for the F&M attack. The sophomore put together a stellar freshman campaign last year as he led the Diplomats in goals (8) and assists (3). Beaver will be flanked upfront by juniors P.J. Succoso and Ryan Macomber and sophomore Preston Kilgore. A trio of freshmen, Sam Lane, Derek Pawlush and Jared Bomba, will also compete for time at the forward position.
Irving and Elicker will set the tone for F&M in the midfield. Irving, a starter since his freshman season, plays a vital role from a defensive midfield position and serves as the Diplomats de facto quarterback. Elicker is a dangerous scoring threat from the middle of the pitch and will look to build on a dynamic scoring partnership that he and Beaver formed in 2010. The duo combined for over half of the Diplomats' goals and nearly half of the team's scoring output from a season ago.
The Diplomat defense will be steered by senior center-back and captain Rob Hassler, while junior Alex Grassi and sophomore Ryan O'Connell also return as starters for the formidable defensive unit. Newcomers Benjamin Henry, Chris Scott and David Rosenfeld will also compete for time in the defensive backfield.
In addition to its conference slate, F&M will once again face a challenging non-conference schedule. The Diplomats open the season with their annual Scrap Yard Classic tournament on Friday, September 2nd against No. 16 Medaille, before hosting Stevenson on Saturday evening.
F&M will hit the road to St. Mary's City, Md. the following weekend for the Seahawk Classic to square off against St. Mary's (Md.) on September 10th and Salisbury on September 11th, before traveling to Lycoming on September 14th for a final non-conference tilt prior to the start of CC play.
The Diplomats begin conference play on September 17th at defending champion Swarthmore and will host their first conference game on September 27th against Ursinus.