2004 season preview
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.
â€œThe expectations are high,â€ said Mazzetti. â€œThese guys have shown a strong work ethic. If we continue to work hard, there are no limits to what we can accomplish.â€
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.
â€œLast year, we had three guys who, when they got hot, could score at any time,â€ said Mazzetti. â€œBecause 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.â€
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.
â€œWe 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,â€ said Mazzetti. â€œWe 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.â€
This season, CU-Colorado Springs will be better suited to the South American speed game that Mazzetti, who was born in Peru, favors.
â€œOne of our goals was to increase our team speed,â€ he said. â€œWeâ€TMve accomplished that. We feel that weâ€TMll be very dangerous.â€
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.
â€œWeâ€TMre not going to be a team of stars,â€ said Mazzetti. â€œWeâ€TMre a team of workers. Weâ€TMre blue collar guys who will get in there and mix it up.â€
|Additional News Stories|
|October 31, 2004||Mountain Lions end season with win||Two days after suffering their most disappointing loss of the season, the Mountain Lions rebounded to gain their most satisfying victory.|
|October 29, 2004||Loss to Colorado Christian a new low||What has been a painful season for the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs soccer program got decidedly worse Friday as the Mountain Lions blew a two-goal lead and lost to the Colorado Christian Cougars 4-3 at Lakewood, Colo.|
|October 24, 2004||Regis tops UCCS in foul-marred match||An old saying reminds that all good things must come to an end. Mercifully, so do bad things. Or, more accurately, ugly things.|
|October 22, 2004||No. 24 Metro State spoils Hovasse's 10-save effort||Chris Hovasse and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs soccer team deserved better than they got Friday night.|
|October 17, 2004||Offense emerges in win||That noise you heard coming from the northeast part of Colorado Springs was the University of Colorado at Colorado Springsâ€™ offense finally getting its wake-up call.|