Video: Men's Soccer Excited To Get 2012 Campaign Underway
Aug. 17, 2012
MILWAUKEE - The Black & Gold Network stopped out at Milwaukee men's soccer practice to talk to head coach Kris Kelderman about the team's preseason progress. He discussed a the team's 16 newcomers, a fresh start for the returners and progress from its "Black & Gold" scrimmage.
The Panthers open the 2012 season with an exhibition contest at home this upcoming Monday, taking on DePaul University at Engelmann Stadium, starting at 4 p.m.
2012 UWM Men's Soccer Preview
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee men's soccer team will certainly feature a new look in 2012. In addition to welcoming new head coach Kris Kelderman, the Panthers have brought 16 newcomers to the roster while also facing the challenge of losing their four top scorers from a year ago.
Milwaukee got off to a solid start in 2011, winning five of its first nine games. That included a 2-0 start in Horizon League play against two of the top teams in the conference. The team scored 18 goals in those initial nine games and looked poised for bigger and better things. Then came a bump in the road, as the team went 1-6-2 the rest of the way and ended the campaign without even qualifying for the league tournament.
"We want to get better and getting better means trying to improve in various areas," Kelderman said. "Obviously, trying to improve the output on the field - there are a lot of things I feel we need to do and work on. I also want to get better in the classroom, academically. The guys have done pretty well as far as grade-point average, but we want to get better."
Overall, the Panthers featured one of their highest-powered offenses in quite some time. Their 79 points led the Horizon League, with their 1.5 goals per game (27 total goals) second and 1.39 assists per game ranking at the top of the conference. For perspective, UWM scored 17 goals in 2010 and had just 12 total over the course of the 2009 campaign. The team also recorded 272 shots - a total that also placed second in the league.
"It was a dangerous team - at least that was how we looked at UWM last season in our preparation [Kelderman was the coach at Green Bay a year ago]," Kelderman said. "It was a team that was very good at transition. When they broke out in the attack, they did in numbers and that is something we can build on. There are a good number of attacking players in the group."
An issue in 2012 will be who will score those goals. Milwaukee returns none of its top four point scorers from last year, with senior Cody Banks the leading returnee at fifth with two goals and three assists.
Others who are looked at to take a huge step on offense include senior Jamie Bladen (one goal; one assist), junior Robbie Boyd (one goal in an injury-plagued 2011 campaign), sophomore Laurie Bell (seven points on two goals and three assists) and junior Riley Weiner. One of the problems was the defense. UWM allowed 18 goals the final nine games, making it very difficult to overcome any issues on offense when facing a deficit most contests.
"If there is an area that I think we need to improve on is more of the defensive end, since they had such an offensive-minded group," Kelderman said. "And that's something that I feel is very important to any team or program that I am involved with, to make sure that we are a difficult team to play against. As an outsider coming in, I feel they are very good at the attack; we just need to improve as a unit defensively."
The defense will have some solid experience to fall back on, as senior John Shakon is the lone returner in goal and will have more returners in front of him in the back line.
Junior James Ashcroft has been a regular starter as a defender each of his first two seasons, helping the offense with a pair of goals as well. Sophomore Adam Hutchinson made a solid contribution as a freshman in 2011, starting 15 of 16 games while also adding a goal and an assist. Classmate Zach Stevenson started 12 games, adding the game-winning goal in a thrilling 1-0 victory over Northern Illinois last in the season.
"There are 32 guys on the roster right now and 16 of them are brand new," Kelderman said. "You always have to lean on the older guys and the ones that are familiar with the school, the facilities, and the program. At the same time, it's an opportunity for everybody. I told the guys that with the newness there is change, with change there is uncertainty and that scared some people. I want them to be excited about it - it's a fresh slate for guys to improve their roles and situations from last year or the past few seasons. For new guys coming in, it's just a great opportunity. Certainly, you lean on the older guys but it's going to take a little bit from everybody."
Newcomers will have the chance to step in at every position. In addition to the players that have never put on a UWM uniform before, one addition will be welcomed back. Andrew Wiedabach will return after a season away. Wiedabach has a resume that includes Horizon League All-Newcomer status as a freshman and then first-team all-league honors in 2010 when he led the team in points (13), goals (4), assists (5) and shots (58).
"For the newcomers, it's a great opportunity for them to come in - it's a new coaching staff and a lot of new players," Kelderman said. "It's not like they are walking into a program where players are set in stone in their roles and their leadership roles. It is an opportunity to showcase yourself and step into a role pretty quickly. And the team is going to need that. I want everyone to be excited about it - every position is wide open."
In a season of change, it's hard to know what to expect from the new-look Panthers in 2012. That is not lost on Kelderman, who was named the seventh head coach in program history this past May.
"As far as setting goals, we will do that with the team as we move forward as far as results and such go," Kelderman said. "First and foremost, I want to make sure that we are organized and that people are familiar and comfortable with their roles, whatever they may be. And then our progression through the season will be to improve and get better. Obviously, we know where the team stood in the Horizon League last season. The goal is to get better, but our improvement won't happen overnight. It will take some time with all the newness."
The Horizon League continues to be a tough challenge from top-to-bottom, and last season was no different when sixth-seeded Loyola went on to win the league tournament and make an NCAA appearance. Wright State has been named the favorite in 2012, but to show how close of a race it is, the top three teams were separated by just two points (WSU had 40 points, Cleveland State second with 39, Valparaiso third with 38) and four different teams received at least one first-place vote.
"I think Loyola has momentum and will be a team to watch out for," Kelderman said. "Wright State is a very dangerous team and I think Green Bay will be very good again. Also, Cleveland State has been, year-in and year-out, a very competitive team that is unpredictable. I would say those are the top four teams I think we need to look out for in the beginning."
One of the unique aspects of the schedule for UWM this season will be the fact that they are in possession of all three of the traveling cups they play for (Milwaukee Cup over Marquette; Chancellor's Cup over Green Bay; LeWang Trophy over Northern Illinois) for the first time since the start of the 2005 campaign.