Seeking a return to the top of the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC), a place the men's soccer team has called home during seven regular seasons and seven league tournaments since 1998, the Lyons have knocked on the door in each of the last four falls.
"Our goal is, and always has been, to win the conference and play in the NCAA Tournament," said 19th-year head coach Matt Cushing. "It remains our goal in 2012, and we look forward to the challenge it presents."
Going 9-8-2 in 2011, six of Wheaton's eight losses came by a single tally, including in the NEWMAC Tournament semifinal round at Babson College. The Lyons finished the regular season strong, winning five of their last six games by a 17-7 count, before falling to Springfield College in the semifinals. The Blue and White tied for second in the NEWMAC standings, notching a 4-2 mark with its lone setbacks coming in overtime.
"The NEWMAC is a very competitive conference," said Cushing. "We have put ourselves in position to consistently compete for a championship. We hope to be in the hunt again."
Should the Lyons achieve their 2012 goals, they'll need to do so with nearly all first- and second-year players, as the squad shows a staggering 24 of 29 players hailing from the freshman and sophomore classes. Of those 24 players, 15 walk on to the Norton campus for the initial time, representing seven different states and two countries.
Much of this year's leadership will fall on the shoulders of Wheaton's five seniors, including captains Howard Manly (Ayer, Mass./Lawrence Academy), Max Swanson (Lexington, Mass./Lexington) and David Turina (North Yarmouth, Maine/Northfield Mount Hermon School). Seniors Federico Kelly (Hingham, Mass./Hingham) and Will Nesbitt (Holliston, Mass./Holliston) round out the class.
Nesbitt, an all-league first teamer, led the Lyon attack a year ago with team highs of 10 goals and 24 points. Turina, who also earned all-league first-team honors, bolstered Wheaton's defense while adding six assists, good for second on the team. Kelly and Swanson contributed 19 and 15 points, respectively, and Manly anchored the defense from his center back position.
Of the nine returning sophomores, Travis Blair (Hastings, N.Y./Hastings) and Luke Finkelstein (Peabody, Mass./Peabody) lead the way. Both were named to the all-league second team last season, with Finkelstein taking home the league's top rookie honor. Finkelstein paced the squad with seven assists, while Blair finished second with nine goals and 22 points.
Sophomore Marlon Ramalho (Framingham, Mass./Bridgton Academy) also made an impact as one of only five players to start all 19 games. Field players Jacob Battipaglia (Guilford, Conn./Guilford), Scott Enman (Brooklyn, N.Y./Packer Collegiate Institute), Shaun Guenette (Belchertown, Mass./Belchertown) and Brian Kenny (Mount Vernon, N.Y./Iona Prep), and goalies Devin Delfino (Bourne, Mass./Bourne) and Jeff Paer (Fair Lawn, N.J./Fair Lawn) complete the class.
Sophomore Ben Altneu (Orleans, Mass./Nauset Regional) is the lone non-freshman newcomer, leaving 14 freshmen, including Massachusetts natives Ryan Connolly (Winchester, Mass./Winchester), Matt Dickey (Newton, Mass./Northfield Mount Hermon School) and Gianluca Viscomi (Newton, Mass./Bridgton Academy). Viscomi's two sisters played for the Wheaton women's soccer team, including two-time All-American and 2011 graduate Alessia.
Freshmen Sanjit Basak-Smith (Easton, Conn./Guilford), Michael Cronin (Wethersfield, Conn./Wethersfield), Kevin Gil (Pawtucket, R.I./Wheeler School) and Cooper Hardy (Lebanon, N.H./Lebanon) hail from New England, while John Calcagno (New York, N.Y./Churchill School), Noah Kossoff (New York, N.Y./Birch Wathen Lenox School), Seitu Morel (Brooklyn, N.Y./Northfield Mount Hermon School) and Aaron Schoenfelder (New York, N.Y./NYC Lab School)represent the Empire State.
First-year players Kai Gooden (London, England/Berkshire School), Matt Levin (Washington, D.C./Field School) andMichael Williams (Los Angeles, Calif./Millbrook School) landed at Wheaton from a farther distance, although Gooden attended an in-state boarding school.
The Lyons host Salem State University in Friday's season opener, playing the Vikings for the first time since 1995. That game marks the first of three straight home matches, including facing 23rd-ranked Western New England University on Sept. 5. Also highlighting the schedule is a Homecoming contest with 18th-ranked Babson College on Oct. 13.
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