Aug. 31, 2005
While the onset of a new season is often met with uncertainty, one constant remains for the Brown men's soccer program year after year- it will be a front runner for the Ivy League title. Winners of seven of the last 11 Ivy League Championships, Head Coach Mike Noonan has sustained a program embedded with talent since first coming to Brown in 1995. While the Bears will face new challenges this season, the return of 18 letterwinners, including nine starters and the addition of nine newcomers, signifies the makings of another exciting season of Brown soccer.
"My biggest hope is that the team reaches its true potential," says Noonan. "We're going to have a very young team this season with a large incoming class and an even stronger schedule than last year's. The toughest challenge will be incorporating the freshmen with the talented mix of players we already have," adds Noonan.
Another evident hurdle Brown will have to overcome in 2005 is the loss of its graduated seniors. All three members of the class of 2004 signed contracts with the MLS and played critical roles for Brown. Their absence will be felt immediately on and off the field.
Taking over the ranks as captains will be senior Sean Gosselin (Northbridge, MA) and junior Matt Britner (Halifax, NS), the Bears quickest answer to the departure of All-American defender Jeff Larentowicz '05.
"Sean and Matt are two of the most mature and selfless individuals that I've been able to coach and in a captain, and that's exactly what you want," says Noonan. "They put the team first and themselves second. They do all the right things on and off the field so they are going to be great leaders for us" Britner, who missed all of last year with an injury, has the instant potential of developing into one of the premier defenders in the country.
Brown's roster is loaded with offensive prowess. Senior Keith Caldwell (Braintree, MA) and junior Andrew Daniels (Englewood Cliffs, NJ) had breakout seasons in 2004, providing the Bears with some much-needed offense. The duo had not scored a goal going into the season, but combined for 10 of the team's 25 goals. While Caldwell is noted for his playmaking abilities, Daniels is a major threat in the open field.
Noonan will also look to senior Brian Perry (Manlius, NY) and sophomore Kevin Davies (Port Washington, NY) to carry the offensive load. Perry provides the front line with ample experience having played in 40 games throughout his career. One of the quickest players on the team, he has registered three goals and two assists in the last two seasons. Davies earned a starting role in his rookie campaign and immediately proved he can put points up on the board, ending the season as one of the Ivy League's top scoring freshmen.
After battling back from injuries early on in his Brown career, Jamie Granger (Lebanon, NJ) returns as well, giving Coach Noonan more options up front. A huge scoring threat, Granger played in all 17 games last season.
Sophomore Ngange Akale (Cottage Grove, MN) surprised many in his first season after joining the team as a walk-on. Akale saw action in six games, including one start, recording one assist.
Freshmen Scott Geppert (Coppell, TX) and Dylan Sheehan (Wolfville, NS) will join the Bears' attack this season. Geppert was named the Texas State Player of the Year in 2004, while Sheehan led his high school team in scoring for three straight years, compiling 68 goals.
A big gap is left in the middle this season with the departure of two-time All-Ivy selection Marcos Romaneiro '05, who orchestrated the Brown offense and ranked 25th in the nation in assists per game. The pressure will be on senior Ibrahim Diane (Potomac, MD), a three-year starter, to fill that void. Known for his outstanding ball control and flair, particularly in the corners, Diane, who scored two goals and an assist last year, is a danger as both a set-up man and finisher.
Joining Diane in the midfield will be senior Bobby Dobbie (Rochester, MI) and junior Brian Joyce (Bethesda, MD), a starter since his freshman year. Dobbie has been slowed-down by injuries the last two seasons, but will look to gain valuable time in the middle and in the backfield this season. A hard-nosed playmaker, Joyce has racked up two goals and five assists in two years with the Bears. Junior Ian Premo (Florence, MA) also returns this season after earning 10 starts last season.
The rest of the midfield will be comprised of a young group of freshmen and sophomores. Jonathan Behrendt (Ross, CA) and Michael Somma (Hampton Bays, NY) return for their second season and will look to garner additional time off the bench.
Noonan has added a total of five promising midfielders to this year's mix, including two New Englanders and one international player. Darren Howerton (Northboro, MA) was a two-time ISL All-Star while Dean Melitsanopoulos (Norwalk, CT) was a First Team All-New England selection his senior year. Vladimir Bjedov comes to Brown from Belgrade, Serbia. Standing 6'3", his size will be a helpful advantage in the middle.
Brown's defense should again be the backbone of the team with the return of Britner to the lineup. Year in and year out, Brown produces some of the top defenders in the country. Britner will look to continue that tradition, following in the footsteps of the likes of MLS pros Jeff Larentowicz '05 and Dustin Branan '03, along with international star Cory Gibbs '01.
Britner already has years of international team experience, being a member of the Canadian National Team since age 15. He made his U-20 Team debut in 2004 after completing a successful rookie campaign at Brown in which he earned an All-Ivy Honorable Mention.
Alongside Britner in the backfield will be fellow captain and team veteran Gosselin. His experience and dedication will be vital to the youthful Brown defense. Junior Ben Brackett (West Des Moines, IA) earned the starting duties in place of Britner last season and demonstrated tremendous growth as the year went on.
Sophomore Laurent Manuel (New York, NY) returns to the lineup as well after concluding a prosperous freshman season. Like Britner, Manuel garnered an All-Ivy Honorable Mention, starting in all but two games.
The addition of two first-rate freshmen will further stabilize the backfield for Brown. The two have extensive championship experience at both the high school and club level. Rhett Bernstein (San Diego, CA) led his club team to the Snickers Youth National Championships while Stephen Sawyer (Coppell, TX) captured the state championship with his high school team.
Goalkeeping will likely be Brown's biggest question mark this season with two talented, but inexperienced, keepers on the roster. Three-time All-New England selection and MLS draftee Chris Gomez '05 played every minute in net last season, leaving junior David Semenza with just one game of collegiate experience under his belt.
Despite this fact, Noonan is confident both of his keepers will be able to step in and get the job done. "Two years ago David helped his U-19 team win the national title and received the Golden Glove Award," says Noonan. "He certainly has the edge for the starting duties." Freshman Jarrett Leech (Manakin-Sabot, VA), a very strong and physical keeper, will look to garner time between the posts after leading his high school to two straight state championships.