In the annual preseason coaches’ poll, the West Chester men’s soccer team was picked to finish eighth in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC). Mercyhurst won the voting to finish first in the PSAC after winning the PSAC West last season. Mercyhurst received seven of the possible ten votes.
Millersville, the reigning PSAC East champs, finished second in the voting, with East Stroudsburg and Slippery Rock tied for third.
West Chester is coming off a disappointing season in which they only finished 4-9-2 overall and 1-5-2 in the conference with no playoff appearance for the second straight year. They finished in fourth place in the Eastern Division. Their only conference win was a 3-1 victory over Shippensburg.
Although West Chester finished their season with only four wins, they only gave up 20 goals to the 25 they scored on opponents. Seven of the Golden Ram’s nine losses were to a one goal deficit, including an overtime loss to Slippery Rock late in the season.
With only one conference win last season, the Rams have nowhere to go but up. Their 2009 team was full of a lot of young talent that will have one year of playing together under their belts upon entering this season.
The collegiate play experience and influence of the veteran Rams should propel this team much further this season.
The Rams will open their season at home on September 4 against Golden Beacom University. The game will be held inside Farrell Stadium as the Rams host the WCU Tournament for the weekend. Their first conference match will be at Lock Haven on September 8.
Both Peter Weiss and Garrett Bleiler will return in goal for the Rams after splitting playing time last season. Weiss appeared in 12 games for West Chester as the starting goalie, while Bleiler appeared in 10. They have both earned letters in all of their seasons as a Ram.
Kevin Marron will also return as another possible goalkeeper for the Rams after appearing in three games last season.
West Chester lost last year’s leading scorer and arguably the best stopper in the conference, Zach Weaver, but will see the return of another top goal scorer, Ricky Williamson. Williamson netted five goals for the Golden Rams last season, and is expected to repeat the strong offensive performance in his senior season.
Williamson was named to the 2009 ECAC Division II Men’s Soccer All-Star second team.
Neil Gallagher had a strong freshman season for West Chester last year. He appeared in all 15 games and netted three goals for the Rams.
Three year letter winner Zac Tassone is also returning for the Rams. He contributed one goal for the offense last season.
Defensively, the Rams will have the support of Andrew Solimeo, Dan Roberts and Taylor Eisenhauer, who were influential contributors for West Chester in their freshman season. Eisenhauer scored two goals for the Golden Rams, including a game- winning goal.
West Chester’s head coach, Kendall Walkes, enters his 21st season on the Rams bench.
The experienced leader still holds a winning record in his tenure as the West Chester head coach with a record of 199-167-26.
Before conference play begins, the Rams will be able to get used to competitive play in the WCU Tournament and gauge what expectations can be set for the season. Getting extra experience playing together as a team will be a beneficial precursor to the rest of the season.
“It’s important to try and string together some wins in the opening tournament to gain momentum heading into the season,” Weiss said.
“We’ve added strong, young talent to assist our returning guys. We are looking forward to a successful season ahead.”
The PSAC will return to consisting of one division of 10 teams after playing two seasons split into two divisions, the East and the West.
After the WCU Tournament, the Rams will host their first home conference game against Slippery Rock on September 11.
PSAC Preseason Coaches’ poll:
T3. East Stroudsburg
T3. Slippery Rock
8. West Chester
9. Lock Haven
Amy Festa is a fourth-year student majoring in English with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at AF649219@wcupa.edu.