Baltimore, Md.—UMBC men's soccer kicks off the 2017 season against Bryant on Friday, looking to rebound from a challenging year in 2016. The Retrievers finished the year at 5-9-3, 0-7-0 AE last year, missing the America East Tournament for the first time since 2008. However, with a young team a year ago, head coach Pete Caringi Jr., who enters his 27th season as head coach, knows the team is eager and ready to take on the talented field of league foes and get back to the America East playoffs.
"Our preseason went really well. I am proud of the way the guys trained and their competitiveness and drive during the past few weeks," Caringi stated.
Caringi's squad had a good preseason, taking down Bucknell 2-0 and James Madison 1-0 in their two exhibition games. They got a balanced attack from both veterans and rookies, but the thing that stood out for Caringi was the way the defense took shape.
"I was most impressed with our defense this preseason. They stepped up and have been solid together in training all preseason long."
But playing in the America East is no easy task. The conference was the third-best conference in the NCAA a year ago, just behind the Big East and ACC. The Retriever coaching staff has put together a tough non-conference schedule, allowing the team to prepare for what is to come in conference. Coach Caringi knows that there are no easy games on the schedule, but that the team is excited and up for the test.
"Every game on or schedule is really tough, and it might be the strongest schedule since I have been here," Caringi said "We are playing teams that are nationally- ranked, including a game against Maryland at Retriever Soccer Park. This will allow our guys to get ready for the tough grind of America East play and gives our fans a chance to see some big name schools in a good atmosphere."
The Retrievers have welcomed seven newcomers in 2017, including a pair of junior walk-ons. A pair of the newcomers come to UMBC by way of Archbishop Curley High School in Alejandro Arbelaez and Dylan Poetzel. Both have played well in the preseason and look to make an immediate impact for the Black and Gold. Arbelaez scored a goal against Bucknell in the team's first exhibition this summer.
"Every experience that these new guys face this year will be new to them. It's a big adjustment from high school to the college game, but so far they have been performing well. I am impressed with the level they are at right now, and they will only continue to grow," Caringi said of his rookies.
Also looking to make their mark in 2017 will be goalkeeper Ciaran O'Loughlin (Birkenhead, England), back Sam Solomon (Fort Meade, Md./Meade), midfielder Matt Bailey (Stevensville, Md./Saints Peter and Paul) as well as junior walk-ons midfielder Saif Arar (Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates) and back Mohamed Arar (Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates).
The Captain :
Senior Gregg Hauck (Linthicum, Md./North County), one of the last remaining members from the team's 2014 NCAA College Cup run, will serve as team captain in 2017. Hauck has been an instrumental part of the midfield for the Retrievers for three years, and will once again be leaned on to lead the team.
"Gregg is the last starter remaining from our College Cup run. He is a leader and someone we can count on. He is a very motivated player and we are excited about him, as he has come a long way from when he first got here to now," Caringi said.
Last year's leading goal scorer Tre Pulliam (Baltimore, Md./Archbishop Curley) returns for his sophomore season after seeing the field in every game as a freshman. Pulliam scored four times with one assist for a team best nine points. Coach Caringi knows just how good Pulliam can be, and knows this could be a breakout year for him.
"Tre (Pulliam) has a great reputation in this area as a scorer from his days at Curley. He has had a great spring and we expect big things from him this year."
Also returning for the Retrievers up top will be classmates Jordan Dove (Gambrills, Md./DeMatha) and Nick Gumbs (Clarksburg, Md./Damascus) along with junior David Harris (Waimanalo, Hawaii/Reservoir (Md.). Freshmen Alejandro Arbelaez and Sam Solomon (Fort Meade, Md./Meade) will compete for time up top as well.
The Retrievers welcome back their core in the midfield, led by Gregg Hauck, Sammy Kahsai (Hyattsville, Md./Northwestern), and Patrick Jean-Gilles (Woodbridge, Va./South County). All three had a hand on both the offensive and defensive ends. Hauck had a goal with three assists for five points, while Kahsai scored three times and Jean-Gilles tallied two goals and one helper.
This nucleus is the key to the Retrievers success this year, and the Retriever mentor likes the progress he has seen out of the trio. "Sammy, Patrick and Gregg have been together now for a couple years, and have made great strides together. They have to defend well and be offensive-minded to help us succeed," Caringi said.
He also talked about the growing confidence with everyone on the team, but especially the midfield group. "Their confidence in themselves and each other has grown tremendously. Expectations are high for this group and our ultimate goal is to get back to the conference championship. They have been working hard and leading by example."
Others competing for time in the midfield will be returners sophomore Tre McCalla (Toronto, Ontario/Senator O'Connor), sophomore Colin Weyant (Perry Hall, Md./Perry Hall), junior James Gielen (Edgewater, Md./DeMatha), and redshirt sophomore Marshal MacCartney (Chesapeake, Va./Hickory/American) who sat out last year after transferring in from American University.
UMBC will return all four of its starting back line from a year ago, and Caringi is impressed with the way they have trained thus far. "I have been most impressed with our defensive unit this summer. We have a solid back line led by a couple seniors in Tom (Paul) and Cormac (Noel)."
Tom Paul (Stalybridge, Cheshire, England/West Hill School) and Cormac Noel will anchor the defense. Caringi had nothing but high praise for both Paul and Noel. "Tom is a true leader back there for us and Cormac has gained a lot of confidence playing in the back, and can help this team all over the field."
Noel also gained valuable experience this offseason playing for FC Boulder of the PDL.
"Kyle is coming into his own as a central defender. He has shown great improvement over two years," Caringi said. "Jon Bell is as good of an outside defender as you will see. He may be not only the best in the conference, but in the country as well. Injuries hampered his season last year, but this year he is ready to prove himself.
Returning for the Retrievers in the back will be sophomore Trey Vinson (Manassas, Va./Forest Park) who saw significant time last year, junior Alex La Noire (Beltsville, Md./Good Counsel) and redshirt sophomore Tyler Ward (Atlanta, Ga./Mill Creek) who scored the game winner in an overtime win against George Washington.
Replacing a stalwart like Billy Heavner is hard to do, but coach Caringi believes there are a trio of young keepers ready to step up to the task in net. "Billy was a leader both on and off the field for us, but we have three guys who have been motivated and are working hard to try and win that starting spot. It is still a battle, and may be a battle up until game day, but we are excited about all three."
Two keepers, Tomas Potts (Ellicott City, Md./River Hill) and Hunter Trefny (Centreville, Va./Westfield) sat behind Heavner last season, gaining valuable experience. Ciaran O'Loughlin will also factor into the decision Caringi must make before opening night.
"We will play whoever is playing the best at that time and whoever gives up the best chance to win. Each one of these three can play and perform well, which is a valuable asset to have."
The 2017 edition of the UMBC men's soccer team will look to return to form that saw them win four of five America East Championships from 2010-14, including that College Cup run in 2014. Coach Caringi and his staff are happy with the way the preseason has shaped up thus far, but know that each and every game will be a challenge that this team is ready for.
"There are not easy games on this schedule, but we are preparing this team for what is to come in conference. Our ultimate goal is to get back to the conference title game, and we hope to be playing our best come October and into November."