RedStorm Primed for Promising 2013
By KERRY GIBBS
Rio Grande Sports Information
RIO GRANDE, Ohio – Normally, when a solid core of players departs from a program after careers full of success and achievement, you will most likely find the head coach of that particular program a bit perturbed.
One of the exceptions to that circumstance can be found in University of Rio Grande men’s soccer head coach Scott Morrissey, who is excited with the talent on his roster entering the 2013 season.
“We’ve spent a lot of time recruiting and trying to replace a number of players,” said Morrissey, who is beginning his 25th season as head coach. “We’ve had lots of turnover, but it’s turnover in a good sense. We had a number of kids who graduated from the university and moved on from the program. This group of guys we have coming in is a talented group, but still a work-in-progress over the next four or five weeks. Nonetheless, I’m excited and, if things fall into place like I think they will, I think we’ll be in the mix somewhere.”
After rolling through the regular season and earning a Mid-South Conference regular season championship, the RedStorm also found themselves in the mix last season before a disheveling 2-1 double overtime loss to Hannibal-LaGrange in the second round of the NAIA National Tournament to end their season with a 16-3-1 record and No. 9 final ranking.
Despite a heavy loss of All-American talent from that squad, Morrissey remains very optimistic about the season which lies ahead.
“I think our returning core of players worked extremely hard in the offseason and over the summer,” he said. “I’m optimistic about the leadership that this group brings to the table and, at the same time, I think we’ve identified some top-quality kids to come in and try to keep us going in the right direction.”
Gone from last year’s squad is a quartet of All-Americans – defender Mike Burney, midfielders Richard Isberner and Oliver Hewitt-Fisher and goalkeeper Jack Marchant. All four were lost to graduation.
Isberner led the team in scoring last season with 22 goals, 13 assists and 57 points, earning him a slew of honors including his second straight selection to the NAIA All-American and All-Mid-South Conference teams. He was also named Player of the Year in the Mid-South Conference for the second consecutive year.
Hewitt-Fisher was second on the team in goals and assists (11 and 10, respectively) and garnered second team All-American and first team Mid-South accolades.
Burney, who had two goals and an assist, was one of the best lock-down defenders in the country, earning him third team All-American honors and a first team All-Conference selection.
Marchant proved to be the proverbial brick wall against opponents last season and received third team All-American and first team All-Conference status after posting a .732 save percentage and recording four shutouts between the posts.
Among the others who saw considerable playing time last season, but who won't be back this fall, are defenders Brodie Steigerwald (three goals, one assist, first team All-Conference) and Brandon Tyler (started 15 games), as well as midfielders Caio Cruz (10 goals, six assists, first team All-Conference), Rafael Maccauro (four goals, six assists, honorable mention All-Conference) and Patricio Guerra (two goals, three assists).
Morrissey acknowledged the loss, but explained the process in replacing those integral parts.
“When you look at it from a defensive standpoint, we lost three guys out of the back, a goalkeeper, an attacking midfielder, another midfielder, and a striker. So, there's a lot of holes there to fill,” he said. “We went about that by trying to identify the spine of our team. Luckily, things have worked out for us. I still feel like we have the quality to compete at a very high level. We feel like we have managed to get some players that are going to mean a great deal to us and we’re excited about that.”
Viera, a midfielder, notched 10 goals and five assists for the RedStorm last season, while Davies, a defender, recorded one goal and one assist.
“I think when you mention those guys, they actually played out of position last year but still did a very good job,” said Morrissey. “Now that we have some issues resolved, you will see [Craig] Davies playing more of a defensive role and [Maximiliano] Viera factor in somewhere towards that middle as oppose to a wide open area.”
Lopez, a junior, was the squad’s ironman last season, starting all 20 games and notching an assist to his credit. Tonegawa, a sophomore, assisted on three goals last season and earned postseason honors as the Mid-South Conference Freshman of the Year.
“Ryota certainly had a favorable first year. Now, the biggest thing for him is continue to understand our system,” said Morrissey. “For me, the coaching staff, and everyone else involved, Cesar Lopez was probably our best player last season. We’re still debating on where he plays, but he will be in the mix. He’s such a valuable leader and player for us.”
Other returnees include sophomore forward Luiz Filho (Sao Paulo, Brazil), senior forward Orlando Zapata (Medellin, Columbia), senior defender Nikoy Wallace (Montego Bay, Jamaica) and junior goalkeeper Jon Dodson (Tiffin, OH).
Headlining the talented list of newcomers this fall are junior defender Logan Gumbert (Anderson, OH); sophomore goal keeper Ludovic Delapeyre (Boissy Saint Legre, France); sophomore defender Romaine Terzian (Valence, France); sophomore forward Edward Mussi (Saline, MI); freshman defenders Heitor de Melo (Sao Paulo, Brazil), Patricio Arce (Santiago, Chile), Chance Burleson (Gallipolis, OH) and Igor Souza DeFeitas (Sao Paulo, Brazil); freshman midfielders Callum Cobb (Aldershot, England); and freshman forwards Pau Delgado Rodriguez (Barcelona, Spain) and William Paulino (Sao Paulo, Brazil).
With a schedule riddled with top-tier opponents in the likes of defending national champion Belhaven, Lindsey Wilson, Saint Xavier and Indiana Wesleyan, Morrissey is relieved to have the majority of contests at home - a luxury that eluded his squad last season.
“We’ve got a great non-conference schedule and some really top-level teams to play. For a change, we’re playing quite a few at home. Those are the kind of tests where you want to have your team challenged and our young guys will certainly be challenged,” explained Morrissey. “Every game is a big game. People want to knock you off when you’ve been having some success. People are always gunning for us and that’s fine. It just comes with the territory. It’s going to be a challenging season with a lot of new faces, but we’re certainly looking forward to it.”
The RedStorm, ranked No. 9 in the NAIA preseason coaches poll, passed their first test on Saturday night with a resounding 7-1 win over St. Xavier (Ill.) - a program it had failed to defeat in each of the previous two meetings.
Perhaps more impressive was the fact that the win came without a full roster intact. A handful of the team's international players were late in arriving on campus and, as of the season opener, one player (Paulino) still hadn't arrived, meaning that the RedStorm have yet to practice or play with its full roster.
"There were some things we didn't do very well, but there was also plenty of good stuff to build on," Morrissey said. "I think we're going to get better as we go once we get everybody integrated into the lineup."
Rio Grande returns to action on Friday, Aug. 30, at 7 p.m., when Indiana Wesleyan pays a visit to Evan E. Davis Field.