Soccer season preview

By Doug Fitzgerald published August 21, 2006

Flavio Mazzetti finally has everything he ever wanted. The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs soccer coach has a talented, hand-picked roster. He has a solid core of upperclassmen that will provide veteran leadership. He even has a brand-new, first-class facility in Mountain Lion Stadium.

Now he just needs some wins. And despite being picked sixth in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conferenceâ€TMs preseason coachesâ€TM poll, heâ€TMs confident that wins are exactly what are coming.

“The guys donâ€TMt feel like theyâ€TMre a sixth-place team,” said Mazzetti. “They feel like this team can challenge for the top spots in the conference.”

Despite last yearâ€TMs 6-10-1 record (4-7-1 in the RMAC), the Mountain Lions have good reasons for that optimism. First among those reasons is experience.

In the midfield, seniors Eric Foulk, Matt Eshbach and Brandon Best will be the teamâ€TMs axis in the center, while senior Jeff Korb and junior transfer Guillermo Alcantra man the wings.

“These guys are bringing us some experience, maturity and composure,” said Mazzetti. “Thatâ€TMs why weâ€TMre playing them where they are â€" in the midfield. We have one junior and basically everybody else is a senior.”

In reserve will be three freshmen, Andrew Oliver, Tristan Robinson and Kellen Griswold.

Defensively, UCCS will have both speed and size. Junior Art Cutter is a strong, physical anchor in the middle who will be a good match with speedy junior ballhandler Ryan Beebe. On the outside will be senior Mark Brehm, the teamâ€TMs fastest player, and talented Jeff Bettner, the only sophomore in the starting lineup.

Reserves Jeff Gerali, Seth Bird, Greg Packer and Alexander Gino all stand 6-foot or better, giving UCCS the size to neutralize the air game.

“Skill-wise, we have a lot of depth,” said Mazzetti. “Physically, this will be the strongest team Iâ€TMve had.”

Two more seniors, Juan Nolasco and James McMonigle, are slated to man the forward positions with highly-regarded freshman Bryan Stoeber expected to make an impact as well. Also in the mix will be another freshman, Jeff Poburka.

The one place where experience will be lacking is in goal, where junior James Bjorklund has played just six career matches. He will be backed up by freshman Isaac Kostrow.

But while the overall team experience is comforting for Mazzetti, itâ€TMs made more so because this season, his fourth, they are nearly all players he originally recruited.

“Without dismissing the contributions of all the great players who have been here the past three years, it does feel good for a coach (to have hand-picked players),” said Mazzetti. “Itâ€TMs almost like starting at a point where youâ€TMre already familiar with exactly how you want to work these guys as opposed to adjusting some of your philosophy and your vision to fit what youâ€TMve already got.”

And since Mazzettiâ€TMs vision and philosophy are based upon the s South American style of play with quick, short passes and the offense building in waves, itâ€TMs impossible to overstate the importance of Mountain Lion Stadium and its state-of-the-art GrassTex surface.

“Itâ€TMs going to allow us to play the style of game that we like to play,” said Mazzetti. “Weâ€TMre not going to change anything about our style except the speed of play. The field allows us to play at a better tempo.”

It also makes practice far more productive. The field was previously full of bumps and chuckholes and unplayable when muddy. Additionally, the Mountain Lions were forced to practice at one site and play at another.

“The training there is so productive,” said Mazzetti. “You donâ€TMt have all the deficiencies we had before. This is now a premier facility.”

Despite all the positives, Mazzetti doesnâ€TMt feel at all slighted by the low pick in the preseason poll.

"I agree with the pick,” said Mazzetti. “You can have good years and bad years and you can have good luck and bad luck, but at the end of the day you are what your record says you are. It gives us something to work towards.

“We got exactly what weâ€TMve been able to prove we are. Now itâ€TMs our job to prove that weâ€TMre more than that.”

UCCS Players/Staff Featured

Matt EshbachMatt Eshbach13MFr
Matt EshbachMatt Eshbach13MSo
Matt EshbachMatt Eshbach3MJr.
Matt EshbachMatt Eshbach3MSr.
Art CutterArt Cutter18DFr
Art CutterArt Cutter8DSo.
Art CutterArt Cutter8DSr.
Ryan BeebeRyan Beebe21DFr
Ryan BeebeRyan Beebe21MSo
Ryan BeebeRyan Beebe21DFr
Ryan BeebeRyan Beebe21DJr.
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.
Seth BirdSeth Bird2DSo.
Seth BirdSeth BirdRSFFr
Greg PackerGreg PackerRSFFr
Greg PackerGreg Packer18DSo.
Greg PackerGreg Packer19DJr.
Greg PackerGreg Packer9F
Jeff BettnerJeff Bettner9MFr.
Jeff BettnerJeff Bettner9DSo.
Jeff BettnerJeff Bettner8MJr.
Jeff BettnerJeff Bettner8MJr.
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Isaac KostrowIsaac Kostrow23GKFr.
Andrew OliverAndrew Oliver20MFr.
Andrew OliverAndrew Oliver20MSo.
Jeff PoburkaJeff Poburka12F/MFr.
Jeff PoburkaJeff Poburka9F/MSo.
Jeff PoburkaJeff Poburka5F-M
Tristan RobinsonTristan Robinson13M/DFr.
Tristan RobinsonTristan Robinson13DSo.
Kellen GriswoldKellen Griswold19M
Alexander GinoAlexander Gino15D
Alexander GinoAlexander Gino15D
Guillermo AlcantaraGuillermo Alcantara14D/MJr.
Additional News Stories
October 25, 2006Stoeber named RMAC freshman of the yearUniversity of Colorado at Colorado Springs midfielder Bryan Stoeber was named the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference freshman of the year, the conference announced Wednesday.
October 24, 2006Seniors score twice in 5-2 loss in season finaleThe Mountain Lions concluded their season Tuesday night with a disappointing 5-2 loss at home to the playoff-bound Colorado State-Pueblo Thunderwolves. James McMonigle and Mark Brehm, both seniors, scored in the finale.
October 20, 2006UCCS eliminated from playoffsThe Mountain Lions were officially eliminated from the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference playoffs Friday as the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs was dominated 8-0 by the Fort Lewis Skyhawks at Durango.
October 18, 2006Soccer match postponedWednesday's soccer match between UCCS and Colorado State-Pueblo has been postponed due to snow on the field. The match will be played Tuesday, Oct. 24 at 6 p.m.
October 15, 2006Nolasco scores in overtime for 1-0 win over RegisJuan Nolasco scored one minute, 38 seconds into overtime Sunday to give the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Mountain Lions a 1-0 win over the Regis Rangers.
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