Panthers Off To Oklahoma To Start 2006 Season
Aug. 21, 2006
Golden Hurricane Classic
Golden Hurricane Classic
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee will begin its 34th season of NCAA Division I soccer this weekend when it heads to Tulsa, Okla., for the Golden Hurricane Classic. The Panthers will open their season on Friday with a 7:30 p.m. contest against Tulsa and finish weekend play on Sunday with a noon start against SMU. Milwaukee is 17-11-5 all-time in season openers, including a 12-7-3 ledger in road openers.
Both games will be available via Gametracker on Tulsa's website, www.tulsahurricane.com.
The game will mark the first-ever for UWM head coach Jon Coleman, who was named the fifth coach in program history in December.
SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION
Tulsa: Milwaukee opens the 2006 season against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, which finished the 2005 season with a 7-7-7 overall record, including 2-4-3 in Conference USA play. It finished strong, making it to the league tournament title game before falling to South Carolina.
The 2006 version is young, featuring three seniors, five juniors, five sophomores and 12 newcomers. They will have to make up for the loss of four of their top five scorers, returning only junior Erik Burkholder, who was selected to the preseason all-conference team. He had two goals and 10 assists a year ago as the team's second-leading scorer.
Head coach Tom McIntosh, who hails from Milwaukee, enters his 12th season with a 112-86-19 career mark. The team went 2-0-1 in the 2006 preseason, with wins against John Brown, 7-1, & Northeastern State, 1-0.
SMU: The Mustangs will present quite the challenge for UWM, as they will enter ranked anywhere from No. 2 to No. 7 in the preseason polls. A year ago they went 14-6-3, including an NCAA College Cup appearance, as they advanced to their 12th-straight NCAA postseason. They were recently selected as the league's preseason choice to win the Conference USA crown as well. Three players were selected to the preseason all-conference squad: seniors Jay Needham and Mynor Gonzalez as well as sophomore Bruno Guardo. Needham was selected as the C-USA preseason defensive player of the year.
Current head coach Schellas Hyndman begins his 23rd season at SMU, never having had a losing season. His 435 victories rank second in both total wins and winning percentage among active NCAA coaches.
2006 EXHIBITION RECAP
The Panthers finished 2-0 in their preseason exhibition games, defeating Bradley University 1-0 at home on Aug. 14 and then Valparaiso by that same 1-0 score Aug. 20 on the road. Senior Steve Sperl accounted for the goals in both games, with classmate Dale Weiler assisting on the Bradley goal and junior Andre Francois setting up the Valpo goal. The defense did the rest, shutting out both opponents over the 180 minutes of action. They allowed 25 total shots, with 10 being on target. Sophomore goalkeeper Grant Fernstrum was up to the task each time, making all 10 saves to earn the pair of shutout victories.
FIRST GAME JITTERS
Jon Coleman may have gone 2-0 in the preseason, but when it comes to the real thing there is quite a precedent to live up to at UWM. Each of the previous four Milwaukee coaches have posted victories in their first regular season game at the helm: Louis Bennett (5-0 over Northwestern in 1996), Brian Tompkins (5-2 over SIU-Edwardsville in 1989), Bob Gansler (7-0 over Central Michigan in 1984) and Dan Harris (4-1 over Marquette in 1973).
For the first time in four years, UWM will not be starting the season at a tournament hosted by the Wisconsin Badgers (but it will head to Madison in two weeks). Instead, the Panthers will head south for a stiff challenge to start the 2006 campaign. The team will take part in the Golden Hurricane Classic on the campus of Tulsa, joining host Tulsa, SMU and the Badgers for the season-opening event.
The Panthers are 3-4-0 all-time against Tulsa, last having played in the 2004 season at the Panther Invitational. UWM is 1-4-1 against SMU, last playing at the start of the 2002 campaign.
SENIOR CLASS READY TO REPEAT
The 2005 senior class matched the 2004 seniors as the second class to advance to the NCAA Tournament in all four seasons wearing a Panther uniform. The two seniors from 2005, Kyle Zenoni and Neil Dombrowski, took that a step further when they became the first to make it past the opening round each season as well. This year, Craig Mallace, Billy Meier, Eric Mickschl, Steve Sperl and Dale Weiler will look to be the next in line to add their names to the same prestigious list. The group has posted a 3-2-1 record in the six tournament games.
DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS
For the fourth-straight season, the Panther defense has been stingy, allowing less than a goal per game on average. Also, for the fifth-straight season, UWM topped the league in goals against average as a team, with Grant Fernstrum the fourth different goalkeeper to help pull it off.
ON A ROLL...
Senior Steve Sperl has been on a scoring spree. Going back to last season, he has notched goals in four-straight games, with three of those going for game-winners. In addition to scoring in both NCAA Tournament games in 2005, Sperl had the goals in both of UWM's 1-0 wins last week.
For the fifth time in school history, and third time in four years, Milwaukee finished the season ranked in the national polls. In 2005, UWM finished ranked No. 24 in the NSCAA/adidas poll and No. 3 in the Great Lakes Region Poll. The highest season-ending ranking in program history came in 2002, when the Panthers were No. 13 at season's end in the NSCAA poll with their 19-2-1 record.
TOPS IN THE NATION
Goalkeeper Grant Fernstrum took over the starting goalkeeper job a month into the 2005 season and became one of the dominating forces on defense for Milwaukee.
Individually, his goals against average of 0.466 on the season established a new school record and led the nation, topping second-place finisher Tally Hall of San Diego State University by .025 (0.491). He became the first-ever Horizon League soccer player to win a national statistical championship since the NCAA began compiling leaders.
His save percentage of .889 would also have tied SDSU's Hall for first in the nation, but he did not play in enough games to qualify.
IN THE POLLS
For the first time in five years, the UWM men's soccer team was not chosen as the favorite to win the Horizon League title. UWM was picked second in the coaches' poll released Aug. 17, edged out by Detroit in a very tight vote. Milwaukee received three of seven possible first place votes, as coaches cannot vote for their own team. UWM became the first Horizon League school to win four-straight soccer titles in 2004, breaking Evansville's old standard of three (1989-1991).
No. School Pts 1 Detroit (3) 44 2 Milwaukee (3) 43 3 UIC (2) 41 4 Green Bay 25 5 Wright State 23 6 Butler 21 7 Loyola 20 8 Cleveland State 7
UWM was the only Horizon League team to earn a spot in the national preseason polls, drawing the No. 24 spot in Soccer America's list and the No. 28 position on College Soccer News Top 30.
ABOUT THAT DEFENSE
The Panthers tied a school record with 12 shutouts last season, including a school-record 10 by Fernstrum. The team goals against average of 0.74 not only approached the program record of 0.67 set in 2002, but also ranked 18th in the country.
Other national rankings held by the defense included fifth in save percentage (.845) and 13th in shutout percentage. That led to a win-loss percentage (.717, 14-4-5) that came in at 15th, as well.
EXPERIENCE ALL OVER
The Panthers lost just two seniors from the 2005 squad and return nine starters and 17 letterwinners. Throw in the fact that they return six of their top seven scorers and it's not a bad situation to be in when you are gunning for a sixth-straight NCAA Tournament. Steve Bode started all 23 games last year, while Zeke Dombrowski (22 starts), Billy Meier (21), Tenzin Rampa (20), Craig Mallace (17), Steve Sperl (16), Grant Fernstrum (16), Dale Weiler (12), Travis Phillips (11), Chris Lins (10), Troy Spielmann (9) and Ken Ogorzalek (8) all started eight or more games.
PANTHERS IN THE PROS
Dombrowski and Zenoni extended another UWM tradition by continuing their careers professionally. Both players were drafted in the MISL Draft, with Dombrowski going to the Milwaukee Wave in round one and Zenoni, a second round selection by the Chicago Storm.
Milwaukee opens their home season by hosting the 33rd Annual Pepsi Panther Invitational next weekend. They will play IPFW on Friday, Sept. 1 at 6:30 p.m., before wrapping up the event with a 2:30 p.m. contest against Lipscomb on Sunday. The Wisconsin Badgers will also be there, taking on Lipscomb at 4 p.m. on Friday and IPFW at noon Sunday.