Baltimore, Md.—UMBC men's soccer has produced their run of great success in recent years, just two years removed from their glorious 2014 College Cup journey. The 2016 edition will be looking to win their fourth America East crown in five years as the season kicks off against Fordham on Friday, Aug. 26 at Retriever Soccer Park.
Head Coach Pete Caringi, Jr. enters his 26th season as the Retriever bench boss with a significant crop of young talent, balanced by a slew of returners that should help the black–and-gold on their quest toward another America East title. This year's team features 11 newcomers and 12 returnees, including All-America East performers in senior Billy Heavner (Landisville, Pa./Hempfield), junior Gregg Hauck (Linthicum, Md./North County) and sophomores Patrick Jean-Gilles (Woodbridge, Va./South County) and Kyle Saunderson (Laurel, Md./Reservoir).
"We have a younger team this year with a lot of underclassmen. So far in the preseason, we have been happy with the way the freshmen have been playing," Caringi said of his nine rookies. "We have a talented group, but we know it will take some time for them to become acclimated to the Division I lifestyle, so patience will be the key."
Caringi also knows that there will be no easy games, as the conference has proven in recent years to be more even top to bottom.
"The conference is as strong as it has ever been, with a lot of talented teams and players playing in the America East," Caringi stated. "This could be the year the America East gets two bids in the NCAA Tournament. We set up our non-conference to help us prepare for what is to come when the conference season begins,'" he went on to say.
The Retrievers tallied 26 goals in 2015, but it will be a bevy of different faces up top that will help lead the UMBC offensive charge. Hauck and Jean-Gilles are the lone returners that scored multiple goals a year ago, so UMBC will need the help of some newcomers to put the ball in the net. Freshmen Tre Pulliam (Baltimore, Md./Archbishop Curley) and Jordan Dove (Gambrills, Md./DeMatha) will help the attack, and coach Caringi can see the upside in the two rookies.
"Tre (Pulliam) and Jordan (Dove) have a lot of good upside. They both have a knack for finding the back of the net, both in high school and the academy/club level."
Joining Pulliam and Dove will be senior Christian Morales (Gaithersburg, Md./Frederick) and junior Cormac Noel (Todmorden, England/Ryburn Valley) who each scored goals last year. Also joining the mix up top will be junior Sammy Kahsai (Hyattsville, Md./Northwestern/Washington Adventist) and freshmen Tre McCalla (Scarborough, Ontario/Senator O'Connor) and Nick Gumbs (Clarksburg, Md./Damascus).
"We have a good mix of talent up top with good upside and potential for everyone to succeed," Caringi said. "We will have a lot of different players who can score and help us on the offensive end."
"Gregg (Hauck) will be our anchor in the middle. He is a captain, a leader and is one of the best players in the air in the country," he said of his junior midfielder. "Patrick proved to be one of the best midfielders in the conference last year, and his experience will help us controlling the middle of the pitch."
Joining them will be sophomore transfer Marshal MacCartney (Chesapeake, Va./Hickory/American) who comes to Baltimore from American University, as well as sophomores David Harris (Waimanalo, Hawaii/Reservoir) and James Gielen (Edgewater, Md./DeMatha), who saw significant minutes last year. "Marshal is a quality midfielder who will give us quality minutes," Caringi stated.
The aforementioned group led by Morales will also compete for time in the midfield
The back line for the Retrievers will feature a few returnees in senior Bill Kerr (Bowie, Md./DeMatha) and sophomore Kyle Saunderson who played in every game last year for UMBC, with Saunderson earning All-Rookie Team honors.
"Both Bill and Kyle can play in the middle or out wide for us, and were big parts of our defensive unit last year," Caringi said of his returning backs.
Junior Tom Paul (Stalybridge, Cheshire, England/West Hill School) will look to add some depth on the back line, and coach Caringi knows how important is it to have him back and healthy.
"Tom Paul is coming back healthy for us after suffering some injuries in past years, and will bring a leadership quality to a younger defensive unit."
Joining the trio will be a couple of younger players in sophomores Tyler Ward (Buford, Ga./Mill Creek) and Alex La Noire (Beltsville, Md./Good Counsel), and freshmen Colin Weyant (Perry Hall, Md./Perry Hall), Jonathan Bell (Silver Spring, Md./Richard Montgomery) and Trey Vinson (Manassas, Va./Forest Park). Bell, who was one of the freshmen in Caringi's nationally ranked recruiting class, will factor in as a key component in the back.
"Jonathan Bell was highly recruited out of high school, and we know he will come in and have a big impact on what we do defensively," Caringi stated.
If there has been a constant for the Retrievers over the past few years, it has been the play of senior Billy Heavner in between the pipes. Heavner was named All-Conference Second Team a year ago, and will once again be the key piece in a young defensive unit.
"Billy is definitely a key piece to our team, and we expect him to pick up where he left off from the previous years. His experience will not only help the defense in front of him, but will help to mold the two freshman keepers we have on the roster," Caringi said of his senior keeper.
Coach Caringi knows that his 2016 freshman class was ranked as one of the top classes in the country, but says that the only thing that matters is how they perform on the pitch.
"We have a great rookie class, loaded with talent from top to bottom. But what matters most is their performance on the field. We know they will perform well and we will count on them to prove themselves night in and night out. The key will be being patient with them while they get accustomed to the Division I game."
As is the goal every year, Caringi and staff are focused on winning an America East championship, and have set the team up to succeed in that mission.
"The goal every year is to win the championship, but to do that, we have to be playing our best soccer at the end of the year. We set up a tougher non-conference slate to set ourselves up for what will be a tough conference season. We know there will be growing pains, but are excited. The future bodes well for all the younger players we have, and we hope that the future begins now."