Being a target is nothing new to the Frostburg State men’s soccer team and 16th-year head coach Jay Hegeman.
Four straight Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference regular-season titles, two AMCC Tournament championships and four postseason appearances in the last five years, including last season’s NCAA Division III Tournament bid, have made the Bobcats a consistently marked team for their opponents.
"Being the hunted isn’t anything different," said Hegeman, whose club has averaged 15 wins over the last six seasons. "We’re certainly not resting on our laurels. Our guys don’t even talk about it (making the NCAA Tournament last season). We know everybody wants to beat us; that’s the way it’s been for years."
The Bobcats have made that a difficult task for their opponents in the past, and they hope to continue that trend in 2001 with a youthful roster that includes a combined 21 freshmen and sophomores and just nine juniors and seniors.
A deep and experienced defensive backfield features senior co-captain Scott Gibson (Myersville, Md./Middletown) and junior Jay Levesque (Falls Church, Va./Bishop O’Connell).
Gibson returns for his fourth year as a starter, while Levesque enters his third year in the starting lineup. The duo will again present a formidable challenge for opposing front lines.
"Both Scott and Jay are very rugged defenders," Hegeman said. "Scott is a hard tackler who just never stops, and he’s the toughest guy on the team. Jay is a workhorse who’s very skilled, very fast and multi-dimensional."
Joining Gibson and Levesque will be sophomore Mike Mutchler (Leonardtown, Md./Leonardtown), who will likely start at the sweeper position.
Mutchler appeared in all 20 games last season primarily as a midfielder and posted two goals and an assist. He gives the Bobcats a vocal player who organizes the defense very well.
The Bobcats will get solid depth from sophomores Scott Mucci (Pasadena, Md./Chesapeake) and Rob Burns (Joppatowne, Md./Joppatowne) as well as talented freshmen Mike DiIorio (Perry Hall, Md./John Carroll), Nick Poulos (Silver Spring, Md./Springbrook) and Ryan Jones (Brandywine, Md./Gwynn Park).
Another strength for the Bobcats will be their goalkeeping, where the Bobcats return a pair of juniors and have added a talented freshman.
Junior Mike Pregnall (Herndon, Va./Oakton) will get the starting nod after posting impressive numbers late in the year filling in for injured senior Jason Lawrence.
Pregnall posted a 4-1 record with a 0.63 goals against average over FSU’s final five games of the year, allowing just four goals in 568 minutes and recording a .862 save percentage.
He recorded shutouts against his first three opponents, including a 1-0 overtime blanking of arch rival Penn State Behrend in the AMCC Championship match, and he ran his scoreless streak to 383:45 before allowing a late goal in FSU’s 2-1 win over Bethany (W.Va.) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
"Mike certainly had an outstanding run at the end of the season," Hegeman said. "He brings us experience and presence, and he’s very quick and strong in the air."
Junior Andy Gretton (Waldorf, Md./Thomas Stone) and newcomer Rob Kramer (Olney, Md./Sherwood) will bolster the goalkeeping position. Both read the game well and are very vocal players in the back.
The Bobcats return a nice mix of veteran leadership and talented youth in the midfield, as six upperclassmen will join seven freshmen.
Seniors Gary Lesko (Waldorf, Md./McDonough) and Brad Limbacher (Annapolis, Md./Broadneck) lead the way.
Lesko, who earned a fifth year due to a medical hardship from his sophomore year, appeared in all 20 games last season and tied for sixth on the team in scoring with eight points (two goals and four assists). He is known for his solid placement, evident with his assists in FSU’s NCAA Tournament games against Bethany and Washington & Lee last season.
Limbacher, who played in 19 matches a year ago, recorded three goals and two assists and also showed a flair for the dramatic, scoring the winning goal in double overtime against Western Maryland and assisting on the game-winner against Bethany (W.Va.) in the NCAA Tournament. He holds the ball well up front and will see time on the left side.
Junior Jon Wieland (Woodbridge, Va./Hylton), a first-team All-AMCC selection a year ago, is the team’s top returning scorer with 18 points on six goals and six assists, all career-highs.
The big and speedy co-captain proved his versatility last year by performing well on defense and in the midfield, and could very well see time at both spots this season.
Fellow junior Juan Flores (Bethesda, Md./Bethesda-Chevy Chase) returns to the team after missing last year with an injury. Flores saw action in 16 games and recorded four assists in his first two seasons.
Sophomores Nate DePasquale (Stafford, Va./North Stafford) and Onyibo Ilochi (Silver Spring, Md./Rockville) combined to appear in 18 games last season and will give the Bobcats more solid play from the midfield. DePasquale posted a pair of assists, while Ilochi is an intimidating player with his size.
Three All-Met selections – freshmen Mike Jungerheld (Pasadena, Md./Chesapeake), Jon Roth (Gaithersburg, Md./Magruder) and Philip Rub (Glenwood, Md./Glenelg) – lead a highly touted corps of newcomers in the midfield.
Jungerheld earned first-team honors as well as first-team All-State and Anne Arundel Player of the Year accolades as a senior. Roth was a first-team All-Met selection as well, while Rub earned honorable mention honors.
"Those three really play well together and understand the game," said Hegeman. "They’re learning how to fit into our system, and all should see playing time. They possess the ball well and play and tackle hard."
Also in contention for playing time are freshmen Marcus Doe (Germantown, Md./Germantown), Carlington Harvey (Trelawny, Jamaica/Harwood (Md.), Luke Mongrain (Hagerstown, Md./North Hagerstown) and Jamie Romano (Joppatowne, Md./John Carroll).
All should add speed and physical presence to the midfield.
One area of concern for Hegeman has to be the front line, considering the loss of a combined 37 goals and 95 points from Kirk Gibson (graduated) and Adam Fletcher (transferred to Allegheny (Pa.) College).
Gibson set a school single-season record with 52 points on 18 goals and 16 assists in 2000, while Fletcher led the Bobcats with 19 goals a year ago.
Hegeman will look to a relatively unproven group to provide the scoring punch up front.
Junior R.J. Purnell (Crisfield, Md./Crisfield) is the team’s most experience forward and finished fourth on the team with 10 points on four goals and two assists last year. He knows the team’s system well and will be looked upon for increased goal production.
Sophomore Rich Kuhn (Pasadena, Md./Chesapeake) is a very dynamic player with a strong shot and can also serve as an attacking midfielder.
Fighting for playing time will be sophomores Steve Brett (Cumberland, Md./Fort Hill), James Denison (Fort Walsh, Md./Canterbury) and Sean Simpson (Silver Spring, Md./Kennedy), as well as freshman Greg Moore (Woodbine, Md./Glenelg).
Brett transferred to FSU from Eastern Mennonite University and could become a solid goal scorer for the Bobcats, while Denison, who sat out last season, brings experience of the system, having recorded four goals and two assists as a freshman.
Simpson is a likely starter, and Moore has shown a lot of promise in the preseason despite being limited by a twisted ankle.
While the team looks strong on paper, Hegeman knows it will take time to find out just how far this new-look Bobcat squad can go.
"We have a nice mix of young and old guys, but we just don’t have a lot of experience playing together here at FSU," Hegeman said. "Integrating everybody into the system is just going to take some time."
The Bobcats will surely be tested once again with a tough schedule. FSU opens against regional power Gettysburg, which advanced to the ECAC Tournament last season, before facing Drew, which advanced to the second round of the 2000 NCAA Division III Tournament and is ranked No. 20 in this year’s preseason poll.
Add regional foes Mary Washington, Western Maryland and Eastern Mennonite, tough AMCC rivals La Roche, Pitt-Greensburg and Penn State Behrend, and a regular-season rematch with Bethany, and the targets on the Bobcats’ backs keep increasing by the minute.
As for any predictions about the upcoming season, including a possible return trip to the NCAA Tournament, Hegeman says it’s simply too early to tell. A strong preseason camp has the team geared up, but it will be a matter of proving themselves when it matters most.
"If we can get some wins and score some goals, they’ll get some confidence."
For further information on this release, contact:
Office of Sports Information
Frostburg State University
101 Braddock Road
Frostburg, MD 21532-2303