2004 season preview

By Doug Fitzgerald published September 2, 2004

In his first season as the coach of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs soccer team, Flavio Mazzetti helped the Mountain Lions return to the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference playoffs and was named RMAC 2003 co-coach of the year. Now, entering his second season, Mazzetti has different expectations.

“The expectations are high,” said Mazzetti. “These guys have shown a strong work ethic. If we continue to work hard, there are no limits to what we can accomplish.”

To shed those limitations, Mazzetti will need to replace his top three scorers. Jared Blackney (nine goals, five assists), Martin Kristiseter (six goals, three assists) and Ryan Slaughter (five goals, three assists) all graduated. Mazzetti, though, isnâ€TMt worried about the loss of firepower.

“Last year, we had three guys who, when they got hot, could score at any time,” said Mazzetti. “Because of that, we designed a system of play around taking advantage of their abilities. This year, we will have a much more team-oriented attack.”

Mazzetti refused to list an RMAC championship among his teamâ€TMs goals, but the implication was obvious.

It wonâ€TMt be an easy road. Defending RMAC champion Metro State returns seven starters, including three All-RMAC performers. New coach Ken Parsons also brought in an impressive recruiting class that includes five transfers from Mesa Community College, whom Parsons coached to a 32-10-3 record over the past two seasons. To top it off, Parsons added a pair of Division I transfers to give the Roadrunners the best depth theyâ€TMve had in years.

Also returning seven starters will be Colorado School of Mines, which posted the RMACâ€TMs best record (9-3) in 2003. Orediggers coach Frank Kohlenstein will field one of the conferenceâ€TMs best defenses, anchored by All-RMAC defender Brian Blaskovich and 6-foot-7 goalkeeper Kevin Galloway. Offensively, Mines faces the challenge or replacing three All-RMAC midfielders.

Regis should be competitive despite the loss of RMAC player-of-the-year Lance Snodgrass. Colorado State-Pueblo will also be in the mix if the Thunderwolves can find replacements at defender, where they graduated all three starters. Colorado Christian, which went 0-9 in the RMAC in 2003, should be greatly improved under energetic first-year coach John Russo.

The Mountain Lionsâ€TM biggest obstacle to a first-ever RMAC title, however, will likely be Fort Lewis and its coach, Jeremy Gunn. The Skyhawks have had CU-Colorado Springsâ€TM number, defeating the Mountain Lions in the RMAC playoffs in four of the past six seasons. Gunn is loaded for his attempt at yet another conference title this season, returning nine starters, including 2003 RMAC freshman-of-the-year Jon Cunliffe.

While the competition will be formidable, Mazzetti has assembled a team that is much more a reflection of his style of play. Last year, the Mountain Lions were often forced into post-up and one-on-one situations on offense to best utilize the teamâ€TMs talent. They were also forced to maintain a moderate pace because of a thin bench.

“We have added so much depth to our team that itâ€TMs no longer going to come down to two or three guys needing to have a good game,” said Mazzetti. “We have guys who can step into any position at any time. Because of our depth, we donâ€TMt expect to run anybody 90 minutes this year.”

This season, CU-Colorado Springs will be better suited to the South American speed game that Mazzetti, who was born in Peru, favors.

“One of our goals was to increase our team speed,” he said. “Weâ€TMve accomplished that. We feel that weâ€TMll be very dangerous.”

Nowhere is that speed and depth better exemplified than in the midfield. Ryan Beebe, who was named to the preseason All-RMAC team, will provide speed at one of the wings. Jeff Korb, who redshirted last year, is also a jet and could team with Beebe to give the Mountain Lions a very fast pair of outside midfielders. But Mazzetti has other solid options at the wing. A pair of tenacious veterans, senior Jason Brunner and junior Jeff Halligan, will also be in the mix. With 45 starts at CU-Colorado Springs between them, they bring a wealth of experience. Freshman Kenny Salazar has also impressed.

Center midfield is equally deep. Senior Patrick Brannan, who was the team captain in 2003, has been a starter in 40 of the 49 matches played since his arrival at CU-Colorado Springs. Sophomores Eric Foulk and Matt Eschbach were both very solid as starters last year with Eschbach notching a goal on 12 shots and Foulk tallying two assists. Sophomore Oscar Velasco, who scored a pair of goals last season, gives the group a physical presence.

Mazzettiâ€TMs system requires depth and versatility at forward and the Mountain Lions have plenty of both. Speed and ballhandling will come from Misha Thomas, Juan Nolasco, Matt Atkins and James McMonigle. Size and power will be provided by Mark Brehm and Brandon Best.

Thomas, with one goal and four assists, is CU-Colorado Springsâ€TM leading returning scorer. A speedster and a deft ballhandler, the sophomoreâ€TMs production should increase with his playing time. Sophomore Nolasco is similar to Thomas in size and ability, but was limited to only five games last season. Atkins, a junior, has shown a nose for the goal during the preseason and will be an important member of the front line as will sophomore McMonigle.

Since none of the aforementioned forwards is taller than 5-foot-10, Mazzetti is pleased to be able to complement them with Brehm and Best, each of whom is 6-foot-1. Brehm transferred from Paradise Valley Community College, where he was a team captain. Best had a goal and an assist last season despite appearing in only 10 matches.

While the Mountain Lions should be solid offensively, they have a chance to be outstanding defensively. All three of last seasonâ€TMs starters, Matt Lay, Brian Thatcher and Brian Best, return. Marcus Reynolds is fast, strong and has shown surprising savvy for a freshman. They are joined by senior Russell Aamodt and junior Corey Johnson, both of whom missed last season.

Goalkeeper has been a three-way battle during the preseason. Junior Chris Hovasse has the most experience and may open the season as the starter. Sophomores Justin Elliott and James Bjorklund have matched Hovasse step-for-step during workouts, though, and any of the three could end up as the starter as the year progresses.

With the talent pool so deep, Mazzetti was hard-pressed to name any starters. He did say repeatedly that regardless of who starts, everybody will contribute.

“Weâ€TMre not going to be a team of stars,” said Mazzetti. “Weâ€TMre a team of workers. Weâ€TMre blue collar guys who will get in there and mix it up.”

UCCS Players/Staff Featured

Patrick BrannanPatrick Brannan10MidfielderSophomore
Patrick BrannanPatrick Brannan14MJr
Patrick BrannanPatrick Brannan10MSr
Brian BestBrian Best2DefenderFreshman
Brian BestBrian Best2DSo.
Brian BestBrian Best2DJr
Brian BestBrian Best2DSr.
Jared BlackneyJared Blackney11FJr.
Jared BlackneyJared Blackney11FSr.
Russell AamodtRussell Aamodt5ForwardJr.
Russell AamodtRussell AamodtFSr
Russell AamodtRussell Aamodt5DSr
Jeffry HalliganJeffry Halligan6MidfielderFreshman
Jeff HalliganJeff Halligan19M/DSo
Jeff HalliganJeff Halligan19M/DJr
Jeff HalliganJeff Halligan19M/DSr.
Jason BrunnerJason Brunner8DefenderSophomore
Jason BrunnerJason Brunner3DJr.
Jason BrunnerJason Brunner3M/FSr
Matt LayMatt Lay15DefenderFreshman
Matt LayMatt Lay16MSo
Matt LayMatt Lay16DJr
Matt LayMatt Lay16DSr.
Ryan SlaughterRyan Slaughter7FSr.
Matt AtkinsMatt Atkins17MidfielderFreshman
Matt AtkinsMatt Atkins15MSo
Matt AtkinsMatt Atkins15FJr
Matt AtkinsMatt Atkins15MSr.
Martin KristiseterMartin Kristiseter10MF/FSr.
Martin KristiseterMartin Kristiseter20MF/FJr.
Ryan BeebeRyan Beebe21MSo
Ryan BeebeRyan Beebe21DFr
Ryan BeebeRyan Beebe21DFr
Ryan BeebeRyan Beebe21DJr.
Brian ThatcherBrian Thatcher4DSo.
Brian ThatcherBrian Thatcher4DJr
Brian ThatcherBrian Thatcher7DSr.
Oscar VelascoOscar Velasco8MFSo.
Oscar VelascoOscar Velasco8MJr
Misha ThomasMisha Thomas9FFr.
Misha ThomasMisha Thomas9FSo
Juan NolascoJuan Nolasco17DFr
Juan NolascoJuan Nolasco17FSo
Juan HolascoJuan Holasco17FJr.
Juan NolascoJuan Nolasco17FSr.
James BjorklundJames Bjorklund23GKFr
James BjorklundJames Bjorklund23GKSo
James BjorklundJames Bjorklund23GKJr.
James BjorklundJames Bjorklund1GKJr.
James McMonigleJames McMonigle12MFFr.
James McMonigleJames McMonigle12MSo
James McMonigleJames McMonigle10MJr.
James McMonigleJames McMonigle10FSr.
Corey JohnsonCorey Johnson22DJr
Corey JohnsonCorey Johnson22DSr.
Kenny SalazarKenny Salazar14MFr
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