The men’s soccer season was a campaign filled with numerous peaks and valleys. It ended Wednesday afternoon when West Chester fell 1-0 against the top seated East Stroudsburg Warriors in the semi-finals of the playoffs. The Rams finished the season 9-7 in PSAC to gain the fourth seed of the playoffs. They clinched the spot on the last day of the regular season in a heart racing rush to the finish line. The loss to Stroudsburg was heartbreaking. The game was tightly contested, marking the third game the two have played against each other this season, and was scoreless for a majority of the contest. This game was reminiscent to the double overtime thriller played just a week ago that the Warriors won 1-0. The Rams played a tight defensive game to weaken the powerhouse Warrior’s offense. Senior goaltender Garrett Santora kept the Rams in the game. The men’s team was out-shot 7-3 in the contest. It was the Warriors Danny Drago that sealed the game in the 83rd minute of the match. Drago headed home the ball sent in by Copeland Lewis. The Warriors score came off a free kick from 25 yards out.
“It was an up and down season; we had some really highs and really lows,” Captain Ben Gotwald said.
For the Golden Rams, it is time to begin to look at next season and celebrate the collegiate careers of the seniors departing. The Rams will have numerous holes to fill in 2008 season with the losses. The good news for the Rams is that there is plenty of young talent that is prepared to fill those gaps.
The biggest hole will be the loss of Josh Harris, the team’s sweeper and captain this year. Harris was not only the anchor of the team’s defense but also the vocal leader on the field. Sophomore defenseman Zach Weaver will be the man to step up for the role. Harris missed the final two games of the season due to an injury and Weaver moved from his outside defense position to cover the center. Weaver has proven to be a solid defender all season long but the change from outside to middle will not be easy. He will have big shoes to fill.
Ben Gotwald ended a fine collegiate career this season as well. Gotwald is six feet tall as a defensive midfielder but when it came to winning balls out of the air, opposing teams must have thought he was seven feet tall. Gotwald was an incredible athlete, winning most of the balls out of the air, and played tough defense. Next season it will be Sean Babcock needing to step into that position and be a physical presence in the back.
The offense will also take a blow losing speedster Alex Inman along with the teams leading scorer Frank DuMas. The Rams offense was run through Inman this season. Inman was a player that used his incredible speed to set up his teammates. He finished the season with three goals and four assists. DuMas was the Rams go-to player when it came to putting points on the scoreboard. His physical style of play and knack for getting into scoring position gave him eight goals and four assists this season. Both will be missed next season.
Replacing DuMas and Inman will be a difficult task but the Rams young talent is ready to step up and do the job. Mike Pryor will be returning for his fourth season. Pryor led the Rams in scoring in 2006 but was quiet this year on the score sheet.
Pryor is a player who knows how to get himself into a scoring position and is confident in his foot to finish off goals from anywhere on the field. Look for Pryor to step up in his final year to help the Rams offensively. David Miller is another goal scorer that the Golden Rams will need to step up next season. Miller scored six goals this season and two in his freshman year. Miller will need to continue to score goals when he returns for his third season.
The Rams also saw three freshmen make a huge impact in their rookie season. On defense, that was Kevin Ballick. Ballick started 15 games this season as a solid fullback. Ballick will need to continue to play solid defense in the 2008 campaign. Then there is the freshman-scoring tandem of Ricky Williamson and Zac Tassone. Williamson scored seven goals. He is a physical midfielder with a knack for scoring goals and will be exactly what the Rams need to compliment players like Pryor and Miller. Tassone will act as a smaller forward with plenty of speed. He had seven goals as well this season but his scoring came in flurries. Six of his seven goals came in two games. The Rams will need Tassone to score consistently next season. He has the ability to be a top scorer in the PSAC with his knack for finishing plays.
The Rams will look forward to their next chance to play after back-to-back seasons being eliminated in the conference semi-finals. Though losing a lot of talent this season, the Rams will have enough young talent to step up and be a major contender in the PSAC again in the 2008 campaign.
Ken Schmidt is a third- year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at KS609536@wcupa.edu