PHILADELPHIA/NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – The Saint Joseph's men's soccer squad kicks off the 2014 season this weekend. The Hawks will first host the Terriers of St. Francis (N.Y.) on Friday, August 29 at 8:00 p.m. before hosting the Black Knights of Army of Monday, September 4 at 4:00 p.m. Both matches will be played on Sweeney Field. The Hawks were voted 10th in the Atlantic 10 preseason poll, the league office announced on Tuesday afternoon.
Live streaming of all 11 home matches this season will be available on the Atlantic 10 Digital Network via a subscription to Hawks All-Access. To sign up, please click here.
The Hawks return 16 letterwinners, including five starters and six offensive players that combined for 68 percent of last season’s scoring, in 2014. Despite the loss of six starters from the 2013 squad, SJU will look to continue on last season’s momentum of making the Atlantic 10 Championship postseason for the first time since 1994 and for just the third time in program history. Under the direction of fifth-year head coach Don D’Ambra, the Hawks return seven upperclassmen and a core group of sophomores and add 11 newcomers this fall. Senior tri-captains Tommy Brooks, Mike Glazer, and Jake Nelson will lead the Hawks into the 2014 campaign.
"Our staff is excited about the upcoming season,” said D’Ambra. “We have a great mix of older and younger players who have the potential to have great seasons. The team has worked extremely hard this preseason and I hope their hard work pays off during the season."
A two-time Philadelphia Soccer Six All-Star selection, junior Tim Lazorko returns for his third season of patrolling SJU’s midfield in 2014. Lazorko owns 27 career points on nine goals and nine assists and is SJU’s returning leader in both categories, tallying four goals and four assists in 2013.
"Timmy is one of our most talented players, and he has an extremely high Soccer IQ on the field,” said D’Ambra. “There are areas of his game that still need improvement, and he has the potential to become a top player in the Atlantic 10 Conference.”
A pair of seniors in senior tri-captain forward Mike Glazer and redshirt senior midfielder Jake Mulinge will also be expected to bolster the Hawks’ offensive attack this season. Glazer tallied one goal and one assist in 16 starts last season and has proven that he can create his own offensive opportunities; the senior boasts 79 career shots and posted a .444 SOG percentage last season. Mulinge adds a phenomenal speed element on the wing and was a catalyst in five starts and 13 appearances off the bench last season.
"Mike and Jake our two of the team’s hardest workers,” said D’Ambra. “They lead by example and set the standards high. They both have the potential to make impact plays on the field, and I hope their hard works pays off."
Harris, a Philadelphia Soccer Six All-Rookie selection proved to be a versatile force in his freshman season; after opening his collegiate career by earning a spot as a starting defender, Harris then went on to take on the role of an attacking midfielder against George Mason at the Atlantic 10 Championships. Harris played the full 110 minutes of the match and took a team-best two shots in the contest.
A fellow Philadelphia Soccer Six All-Rookie selection, Irvin was extremely consistent as a defensive midfielder in 13 appearances with seven starts and could also be utilized as a scoring threat this season.
Jordan provided SJU’s spark of energy off the bench as he appeared in all 19 games, averaging 44 minutes per match, and returns as SJU’s third-leading returning scorer from last year’s squad.
"Bliss, Sam and Eric are young but have the skill set to make difference-making plays,” said D’Ambra. “All three players have made tremendous strides in their development and have high ability, and I expect great things from them.”
Junior forward Emmanuel Temeh and sophomore forward Mori Diane also delivered notable speed and fervor off the bench for the Hawks last season and will join sophomore midfielder Mike Stuski in adding to Saint Joseph’s depth on the attack this fall.
Saint Joseph’s additional newcomers, including sophomore Max Pozzessere and freshmen Matt Crawford, Liam Stenson, and Ben Zambetti, will round out the Hawks’ offense in 2014.
Senior tri-captain Tommy Brooks will anchor Saint Joseph’s defensive unit this season. Brooks has started all 52 games of his career, and after making the change from a defensive midfielder to a sole defensive player for the 2012 season, he has led SJU’s back line.
"Tommy is a natural leader, hard worker, and strong defender and will battle with the top players in the country,” said D’Ambra. “He has a heart of a lion and will be the on-field team leader as a senior this year.”
Fellow senior tri-captain Jake Nelson and classmate Brandon Stevis will also lock down the veteran defensive unit. Nelson made the switch from an offensive-minded midfielder to a defender for A-10 action last season and played full matches in the A-10 Quarterfinals in addition to wins over nationally ranked VCU, Fordham, and George Washington.
"Jake is very talented and smart on the field,” said D’Ambra. “He is extremely calm under pressure and has very good field vision and passing ability. He will be a major attacking threat out of the back this year, and I am excited to see him play this year."
Stevis adds additional veteran experience and understanding on the defensive end of the field and made 10 starts in 13 appearances in 2013.
The graduation of Brendan Reilly vacates the center back position, and sophomore Coupar Lipp has been playing extremely well during preseason and is the front runner to win the starting central defender spot. Lipp made eight appearances on the back line last season and could break through to a starting position alongside the senior veterans.
“Chris has the fight like Tommy [Brooks],” said D’Ambra of the rookie DiSabatino. “He is a versatile and aggressive player.”
The graduation of three senior netminders, including starter Andrew D’Ottavi, from last year’s squad opens the goalkeeper position for the 2014 Hawks. Throughout preseason camp, sophomore Jay Higbee and freshman Bobby Edwards have been competing for the starting spot between the pipes. They have seen equal time in net, with Higbee taking the first half and Edwards the second of both exhibition matches this preseason.
Higbee saw 45 minutes of action last season in the second half at Siena, where the then-rookie allowed just one goal and made three saves in his first collegiate appearance.
“Jay is a great athlete, solid shot stopper and makes good decisions when to come out for balls,” said D’Ambra. “He had a strong spring season and looks good in camp."
Edwards led St. Benedict’s Prep (N.J.) to a pair of National Championships between 2011-12.
“Bobby has great size and good communication skills with a lot of potential,” said D’Ambra.
In the A-10 preseason poll, Saint Louis took 10 of 13 first-place votes and was ranked in the top spot ahead of defending champion George Mason. VCU, Dayton, Davidson, and Duquesne rounded out the top half of the poll.
La Salle, Fordham, and George Washington took the 7-9 slots while the Hawks were followed by Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and St. Bonaventure.
2014 Atlantic 10 Conference Men’s Soccer Preseason Poll
Team – Pts. (First-Place Votes)
1. Saint Louis – 164 (10)
2. George Mason – 151 (2)
3. VCU – 147 (1)
4. Dayton – 127
5. Davidson – 105
6. Duquesne – 100
7. La Salle – 93
8. Fordham – 70
9. George Washington – 58
10. Saint Joseph's – 53
11. Massachusetts – 40
12. Rhode Island – 39
13. St. Bonaventure – 34