Cardinals Have the Material for Fifth NCAA Tournament Bid in Last Eight Seasons Heading into 2012
Equaling the best start through 13 games in Wesleyan men's soccer history with a 10-0-3 record in 2011, the Cardinals cracked the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) top-25 rankings Sept. 27 and held as high as the #9 spot for three weeks (Oct. 11-25). Despite losses to Trinity to end the regular season and Middlebury in the first round of NESCAC tournament play, Wesleyan was rewarded for its great campaign with an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III tournament. It was the Cardinals' fourth NCAA appearance in the last seven seasons. Wesleyan remained unbeaten in first-round NCAA action with a 1-0 decision over Misercordia before falling to regional host Rutgers-Camden, 2-1, in the next round, finishing the year 11-3-3.
Under the leadership of 2012 team tri-captains Rory O'Neill '13 (#7, main photo), Adam Purdy '13 (#30, photo upper right) and Cabell Maddux '13 (#20, photo lower right), Wesleyan has the makings of another NCAA qualifier with 16 lettermen and eight starters returning from the capable 2011 squad. Seven of the other eight lettermen started at least one game a year ago while the other played in 14 contests without a start. "On paper, this is one of the deepest and most talented squads I've had in my 14 years at Wesleyan," said Head Coach Geoff Wheeler. In addition, he described the incoming freshman group of 11 players as "eager and in a position to help."
O'Neill was the most decorated Cardinal in 2011, capping his year with a second-team All-America nod from the NSCAA as well as a D3Soccer.com All-America honor. Earlier he had garnered first-team all-NESCAC and NSCAA first-team all-New England laurels. He led Wesleyan with seven goals and two assists for 16 points from his midfield spot. Evan Hazelett '13, one of the 11 seniors listed on the preseason roster, ranked second in scoring with five goals and three assists for 13 points. Walter Rodriguez '14 had 10 points with four goals and two assists. Wesleyan netted 23 goals a year ago and players who accounted for 20 of them are back for 2012.
Defense was the key to the Cardinals' success in 2011 and that centered around four-year starting keeper Purdy. Purdy was first-team all-NESCAC for the second time in his career, the first time coming in 2009 when he also earned All-America honors. In addition, Purdy was a second-team NSCAA all-New England choice in 2011 (he was first team in 2009). Playing every minute in net and yielding just 11 goals with 11 shutouts behind a 0.62 GAA and a .867 save percentage, Purdy was near-perfect through the opening 13 games as he was beaten just four times, two of those coming in the opening-day 3-2 overtime victory against Bowdoin, the team Wesleyan faces Sat., Sept. 8 in Brunswick, Me. to inaugurate the 2012 slate. Purdy has started all possible 52 games over the last three years with a career 0.74 GAA and a .843 save percentage. His 24 career shutouts is already a Wesleyan standard.
Starters back on defense for the Cardinals in 2012 include Maddux, Ben Bratt '15 and Spencer Tanaka '15. Additional support will come from returnee Greg Shaheen '15. Joining O'Neill in the midfield will be the returning talents of Ian Waldron '13, Chris Kuehn '13, Sam Atwood '14, Brock Barritt '15, Matt Hertgen '15, and Dan Issroff '15. Up front, Hazelett and Rodriguez will be aided by Noah Schlesinger '13 and Omar Bravo '15.
After beginning the campaign with a pair of road contests, Wesleyan has a home NESCAC weekend with Tufts in town Sat., Sept. 15 followed by a visit from Hamilton Sun., Sept. 16. The Hamilton game is slated for a webcast beginning at 2:30 p.m.
(photos courtesy of Peter Stein '84)