Soccer: Season preview

By Doug Fitzgerald published August 30, 2007

College coaches so often bemoan their teams' youth that it has become cliché. When University of Colorado at Colorado Springs soccer coach Flavio Mazzetti makes that claim, though, he has a valid point.

Mazzetti and the Mountain Lions will enter the 2007 season with a roster that features 16 freshmen, five sophomores, five juniors and no seniors.

That's young enough for an episode of The O.C.

Of course, The O.C. was recently cancelled. Mazzetti is hoping the UCCS soccer team can avoid the same fate. From a talent standpoint, he has little to worry about since the Mountain Lions will field a nice blend of size, speed and skill. Experience is another subject, though.

"A lot of these kids didn't know each other two weeks ago, so trying to get them playing together is going to be an ongoing project," said Mazzetti. "Experience is going to come one touch at a time -- we can't rush that."

"They've come in with a great attitude and a great work ethic. They realize that there are a lot of positions up in the air. The competition right now is extremely high everywhere."

That competition begins on the front line. UCCS returns sophomore Bryan Stoeber, who was the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference freshman of the year in 2006 after recording seven goals and four assists. Freshmen Dami Oladiran, Isak Tengesdal, and Wade Hood along with junior Greg Packer are vying for the other starting spot. Regardless of who starts, all should see playing time since Mazzetti wants his forwards to stay active.

Tengesdal was named the North Dakota player of the year by RISE Magazine after an 18 goal, seven assist performance in 2006. Hood was a scoring machine at Northridge High School in Greeley with 27 goals and three assists. Oladiran, a native of Nigeria, did not play high school soccer, opting instead to concentrate on his studies. Mazzetti discovered him playing in a Denver adult league. Packer played defense this past season but Mazzetti prefers him up front where he can use his strength and aggressiveness.

"We've got five good forwards," said Mazzetti. "They're all working hard and we're just still looking right now for the guy that's going to complement Stoeber and give us the best pair up top."

Talented junior Jeff Bettner will anchor the midfield. Sophomore Jeff Poburka has spent most of the preseason running with Bettner at center midfield, but Poburka may also see playing time at the wing. Freshmen Ryan Piechowski, Calvin Cook and Chris Santalauria have all shown flashes and will figure into the mix. Bryan Manson and Francisco Soto could also play their way into the rotation.

"Center mid is a position where we have a lot of depth," said Mazzetti. "We haven't found the complement for (Bettner) yet. We don't have a lot of experience -- five of them are freshmen and one's a sophomore."

A similar situation exists on the wing, where sophomore Andrew Oliver and redshirt freshman Mike Seely are the most experienced players. Oliver has played several years in Mazzetti's system and can play either the right or left side. He figures to get significantly more than the seven starts he had a year ago. Those two will face stiff competition from speedy freshmen Bobby Cinea and Mike Mason.

"On the (wing), we're going to bring a little bit more speed (than last year)," said Mazzetti. "We certainly don't have the experience, having had two seniors there last year."

Defensively, UCCS is in serious rebuilding mode.

"We don't have any of our defenders (from last season) back this year," said Mazzetti. "We graduated the whole back line so communication and teamwork are still a project for us that we're working on daily."

Sophomore Tristan Robinson, who saw most of his action in the midfield last season, will start in the middle of the defense along with Jeff Girali. At 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-1 respectively, that duo should be formidable against crossing passes in the air. Behind them is Jarad Giegler, a 6-foot-4 transfer from Itawamba Junior College.

Ryan Buttner, a transfer from Chandler Gilbert Community College, is the most experienced of the outside defenders. Sophomore Alexander Gino, redshirt freshman Aaron Mazzetti and true freshman Nick Christopher are also competing for playing time.

Three freshmen will compete for the goalkeeper job, with Mark Howard holding the edge coming out of training camp. Howard, Adam Liszewski and Michael Bergren have all had their moments.

"With three freshmen in the goal it's been a battle the entire training camp," said Mazzetti. "There have been days when they've all looked great."

There have been days. That says it all when dealing with a team this young. One day they look like world beaters, the next it's more like Egg Beaters. Mazzetti's hoping to get more wins than omelets from his talented neophytes.

"A young team can be successful," said Mazzetti. "They're going to have to find their groove and their consistency along the way.

"I do believe it's a group the core of which is going to have a lot of success in the future - whether the future is this year or next year. Every time they step on the field they're going to gain some experience. This is a solid group that's only going to get better and I'm happy with their development."

UCCS Players/Staff Featured

Greg PackerGreg PackerRSFFr
Greg PackerGreg Packer18DSo.
Greg PackerGreg Packer19DJr.
Greg PackerGreg Packer9F
xsl:value-of select="@CoachName" />
Jeff BettnerJeff Bettner8MJr.
Jeff BettnerJeff Bettner8MJr.
Jeff BettnerJeff Bettner9DSo.
Jeff BettnerJeff Bettner9MFr.
Aaron MazzettiAaron MazzettiDFr.
Aaron MazzettiAaron Mazzetti7DFr.
Andrew OliverAndrew Oliver20MFr.
Andrew OliverAndrew Oliver20MSo.
Jeff PoburkaJeff Poburka12F/MFr.
Jeff PoburkaJeff Poburka9F/MSo.
Jeff PoburkaJeff Poburka5F-M
Tristan RobinsonTristan Robinson13DSo.
Tristan RobinsonTristan Robinson13M/DFr.
Mike SeelyMike SeelyMFr.
Mike SeelyMike Seely21MFr.
Bryan StoeberBryan Stoeber16F/MFr.
Bryan StoeberBryan Stoeber16F/MSo.
Alexander GinoAlexander Gino15D
Alexander GinoAlexander Gino15D
Bryan MansonBryan Manson26MFr.
Bryan MansonBryan Manson22M
Wade HoodWade Hood3FFr.
Calvin CookCalvin Cook4D/MFr.
Ryan PiechowskiRyan Piechowski18MFr.
Ryan PiechowskiRyan Piechowski20M
Ryan PiechowskiRyan Piechowski20MJr.
Ryan PiechowskiRyan Piechowski20MJr.
Nick ChristopherNick Christopher12D/MFr.
Nick ChristopherNick Christopher12D/MFr.
Nick ChristopherNick Christopher26D/MJr.
Bobby CineaBobby Cinea14M/FFr.
Jarad GieglerJarad Giegler2DJr.
Francisco SotoFrancisco Soto25MFr.
Michael BergrenMichael Bergren23GK
Isak TengesdalIsak Tengesdal6F
Isak TengesdalIsak Tengesdal6F
Additional News Stories
December 11, 2007Men's soccer: Coaching position information is now availableUNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT COLORADO SPRINGS. Job Description. Head Men's Soccer Coach. Department of Intercollegiate Athletics
November 13, 2007Soccer: Mazzetti resigns as UCCS men's soccer coachFlavio Mazzetti resigned from his position as the head men's soccer coach at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, the UCCS Athletic Department announced Tuesday.
November 1, 2007Soccer: Bryan Stoeber named to the all-RMAC first teamMountain Lion Sophomore Bryan Stoeber was named to the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference first-team all-RMAC soccer team, the conference announced Wednesday.
October 28, 2007Soccer: Mountain Lions drop final game of season to MavericksCOLORADO SPRINGS -- The Mesa State College Mavericks defeated the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Mountain Lions 3-1 Sunday afternoon at Mountain Lion Stadium in the final game of the season for both teams.
October 26, 2007Soccer: Skyhawks potent offense scores six in win over Mountain LionsThe Fort Lewis Skyhawks blanked the UCCS Mountain Lions 6-0 Friday night at Mountain Lion Stadium for their seventh shutout of the season.
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