Archive for Thursday, August 19, 2004

Baker men want to erase soccer playoff results

August 19, 2004

The tenuous finale of Baker's 2003 mens soccer season is still fresh in the minds of the players and fans who traveled to the NAIA National Tournament in Olathe.

The first-round game versus underdog Bethel College came down to penalty kicks after a scoreless second half and two overtimes failed to break a 1-1 tie. Baker made its first four penalty kicks and needed to convert a fifth to win. The kick went high. Needing to make a sixth kick to tie, a Wildcat again kicked high.

"It left me hanging," senior Michael Garven said. "We made it to nationals two years in a row, and we still haven't won that first game."

Head coach Ron Pulvers is in no hurry to erase that memory. In fact, he wants his players to remember it and use it as motivation. He said he believed the national tournament losses and lessons learned from watching the UEFA Champions League and Euro 2004 would show the team what it needs to do to win.

"We must be fitter, more organized and much more energetic," Pulvers said.

Pulvers is hoping to add energy with a large recruiting class that will significantly increase depth and competition for starting roles. Pulvers is intrigued by his latest recruiting class, which may rival his 1999 and 2003 recruiting classes. The 13 newcomers include five transfers, more than usual for a Pulvers' team.

"It is going to be one of the deepest teams, if not the deepest team, that I have ever coached," he said.

Two transfers, Kelly Phillips of Premier Junior College in Atlanta and Travis Moore of the University of Akron, are expected to play an immediate role in the midfield.

Three newcomers have upgraded the striker position. Shaun Nicklin scored 55 goals as a senior at Goddard High School and transferred to Baker from Drake University. Freshmen Shaun McNamara of Raytown, Mo., and Derek Doerfler of Lee's Summit, Mo., are expected to add energy and scoring ability.

Sophomores will be relied on heavily. Scott Appell and David Russell will solidify the wide channels of defense, and Adrian Salazar and Josh McDaniel will compete for spots in the center midfield. Last year's leading scorer, Marty Johnston, will be looking for a regular spot in the front 11.

Davy Phillips and Matt Trumpp, captains and all-conference selections last season, will anchor the backline as seniors. Also returning is senior Pat McNamara, who started every game at goalie in 2003. Garven is expected to add energy to the right flank. Senior Luke Parrott has been a mainstay on offense since making all-conference as a freshman. He led the team in assists last season.

Garven said getting all of the players on the team to communicate is key.

"Man for man, we're not as good as some other teams, but we're great as a team," Garven said. "We need to talk and that will solve a lot of problems."

The 2003 season could have been considered a rebuilding year after losing three All-Americans to graduation and electing two juniors as captains. After losing only three starters to graduation and returning most of the category leaders and the captains, McNamara said this team has learned from its mistakes and knows what it will take to make it past the first round.

"The freshmen played a ton last year," McNamara said. "Now they come back with plenty of experience and so many players have national tournament experience.

"This year is going to be amazing," he said.

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