The University of Redlands men's soccer team established numerous records and achieved great success during the 2011 campaign, taking home the program's 11th Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) Championship and advancing to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Division III Championships. After just missing out on a chance to play for a spot in the Final Four, the Bulldogs embark upon the 2012 season with great enthusiasm for the opportunities that lie ahead of them. Despite losing key seniors from last year's squad, Redlands returns a highly-touted team that is mixed with talented young players and savvy veterans who strive to keep the program's traditions alive and strong.
Entering his seventh season at the helm of the Bulldogs, Head Coach Ralph Perez expects big things from this year's team but knows that it will not be easy.
"It's going to be a challenge this year after losing good senior leadership and players in key positions," he stated. "What I'm looking to see from different players on this team is whether they can step up into greater roles and take on more responsibility, and more importantly, replace the goal production that we lost."
The senior class includes a multitude of strengths in all facets of the game. Forwards Alex Laughton (Pleasanton, CA) and Noah Prudhomme (San Anselmo, CA), midfielders Gabe Ramirez (Pasadena, CA) and Nick Eary (Las Vegas, NV), defender Brad Jackson (Medina, WA) and goalkeeper Spencer Dellhime (Highland, CA) have accumulated an impressive overall record of 43-13-8 during their first three years as Bulldogs. Hungry to capture its third consecutive regular-season SCIAC title, this fourth-year class looks to lead by example and help the squad return to the NCAA Championships for the 10th time in school history.
Fellow senior goalkeeper Nick Zortea (Simi Valley, CA) joins the team this year in hopes of strengthening the squad and adding depth to the final line of defense.
Following remarkable freshman and sophomore campaigns, junior defender Richie Marquez (Pomona, CA) was voted captain by his teammates for the 2012 season. He works to build upon his 2011 National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) All-Far West Region Third-Team selection in addition to his second consecutive First-Team All-SCIAC honor. Joining Marquez in the defense that allowed a minuscule 0.58 goals-against-average last year, Jackson, junior Evan Keny-Guyer (Portland, OR), and sophomore Nico Johnson (Las Vegas, NV) each possess the tools to add to that impressive defensive showing. Furthermore, count on junior Tyler Smalley (Beaverton, OR) to help solidify the backline after gaining experience and seeing action in 13 matches during his second season with Redlands.
Equipped with an impressive sophomore campaign under his belts, junior goalkeeper Andreas Silva (San Jose, CA) enters his third consecutive season as the Maroon and Gray starter. Look for him to continue his effective communication and direction of his teammates when on the field. In addition, Dellhime steps in as the No. 1 backup to Silva, while freshman Sebastian Brown (Englewood, CO) learns from his goalkeeping mentors during his first year with the Bulldogs.
On the other side of the game, sophomore forward Charles Izydorek (Redlands, CA) heads up the Bulldog attack after experiencing a fantastic freshman season with 15 goals and a SCIAC- leading 29 points. Laughton joins forces with Izydorek and aims to finish his strong four-year career on a high note. Prudhomme also vies to play a major role in the Bulldogs' offense during his final season.
The midfield group is likely one of the Maroon and Gray's strongest assets to the team. Ramirez and Eary both return from last year's starting crew, while junior Will Walker (Folsom, CA) steps into the middle of the park after having a breakout season in 2011. Additionally, Coach Perez holds high expectations for sophomore Matej Kustura (Las Vegas, NV), who enjoyed an outstanding rookie campaign by finding the back of the net six times and dishing out as many assists.
Following a year abroad, junior Jensen Brehm (Bellevue, WA) returns to action, adding depth and versatility to the Bulldog midfield. Sophomore Grahame Fitz (Menlo Park, CA) looks to continue the momentum of his rookie season by contributing even more as a dynamic midfielder.
With every new season, there is a turnover of player personnel and influx of talented first-year competitors, and this year is no different for Redlands. Highlighting the incoming class, freshman forward AJ VanderStaay (Bellingham, WA) brings creativity and depth up top, while fellow rookie Peter Marsden (Woodside, CA) works into the mix of viable midfielders.
Outside of the on-field workers, Assistant Coach Cale Rodriguez rejoins the men's soccer program after a remarkable playing career at Redlands and a one-year stint on the coaching staff at UNLV. Expect him to make an impact with his experience and expertise from the other side of the touchline.
"Cale is our third consecutive Bulldog men's soccer alumni who has come back to coach. He is a motivated young coach who wants to help this team in any way possible, and I think he's a great addition to our staff," Coach Perez commented.
A new SCIAC season brings new challenges, and Coach Perez realized that it will be extremely difficult to repeat the unblemished record from a year ago.
"We know that the conference is going to be tougher than ever because of the addition of Chapman University for the first time in history as well as every team improving each year," he remarked. "It also creates a situation where teams will be forced to play three games in one week, so we must meet the challenge in front of us each and every contest, whether it be physical, technical, or psychological."
After an early-season contest against in-region opponent Whitman College (WA), the Bulldogs jump into SCIAC action against Occidental College on September 10 and then face Caltech just two days later. Redlands then squares off against the No. 1 team in the nation on September 14 when the Maroon and Gray welcomes Trinity University (TX) to Farquhar Field. Amidst the busy conference schedule in late September, the U of R also hosts longtime regional rival UC Santa Cruz in a game which could have major implications for both teams during NCAA Championships selection time.
Goals have been set and the expectations are as high as always as this year's edition of Bulldog men's soccer strives to build upon the program's rich traditions. With a SCIAC Championship and much more in their sights, Redlands hits the ground running in 2012 with great excitement for the upcoming season.