POTSDAM -- There are plenty of new faces on the SUNY Potsdam campus during the fall, but one new face is of particular importance to the Bears men’s soccer program.
Adam Parker, who led North Country Community College to a 31-17-2 record over the last three years, including a conference title last season, will lead the 2010 Bears one season after the team produced a 3-12-1 overall record, including a 1-8 mark in the State University of New York Athletic Conference under Joe Vaadi.
Parker, who inherits a squad with just a pair of fourth-year seniors, has been impressed with the Bears’ work rate throughout the preseason, which included a scrimmage against Algonquin.
“The guys have worked really hard all through preseason,” Parker said.
“Algonquin is as skilled as any team we’ll play in our conference, with the exception maybe of Plattsburgh. They weren’t as big as maybe a SUNYAC team, but for us to battle and grind out a win in the last two minutes says something about our character.”
Parker sees work rate and defensive organization as the team’s top strengths. Some areas for improvement, according to the coach, include technical skill and patience with the ball.
“We’re probably not the most technical or prettiest team out there, but the guys work really hard,” Parker said. “One of the things we’re trying to do is settle down on the ball more and keep the ball more, so we can put the other team on the defensive and take some of the pressure off our backs and defensive players.”
Fourth-year seniors Tim Ciampa (Castleton) and Jon Reeves (Macedon,) will serve as captains for the 2010 season. Both are aware of what the head coach expects both on the field, in the team room and in the classroom.
“They’re really good in the classroom and they lead by example, not just on the field but off the field,” Parker said. “From what I’ve seen, between the spring and now, they’ve got really good character and want what’s best for the program.”
According to Parker, sophomore Victor Colasacco (Oceanside) has also emerged as a leader during the preseason.
“You can see in (Victor) that he’s sort of a natural-born leader,” Parker said. “He played a lot as a freshman as well, but you can’t really play as a center back and not be willing to accept responsibility and get those around you prepared to play.”
Offensively, the team will look to Ciampa, a midfielder, and junior Chris Nieves (Saratoga, N.Y.) to play key roles. Ciampa is an attacker who plays wide on the midfield, and someone who Parker thinks can be a prolific scorer this season. Nieves last played with the Bears in 2008, posting one assist in 17 matches as a defender.
“Chris is kind of a back that we’re making into a forward because he is so physical and he’s able to hold the ball up even though he may be getting hit by defenders,” Parker said. “He just works real hard.”
Junior midfielder Billy Sahler (Greenwood Lake) returns as the team’s leading scorer from 2009, tallying two goals and two assists for a total of six points.
The defense will be anchored by Reeves and Colasacco. Reeves played in all 16 games last season with one goal, while Colasacco amassed one assist in 13 appearances.
Junior Chris Mack (Glens Falls) will figure prominently in the defensive midfield. He started all 16 games a year ago and appeared in 18 as a freshman in 2008.
Sophomore Joe Glackin projects to start at goalkeeper for the second consecutive season. Last year, the Latham native totaled 72 saves, three shutouts and a 2.04 goals against average, all top marks on the team.
Other returners from the 2009 squad include seniors Brandon Calandra (Gloversville) and Ian Gadbow (Norwood), juniors Greg Bennett (Buffalo,) and Mark McCloskey (Tully), and sophomores Sean Atkinson (Lake Ronkonkoma), Zack LaDue (Cohoes) and Colin MacIver (Westport).
Parker has also been impressed with a pair of newcomers to the program.
Junior Dennis Basler (Ilion) has two years of college soccer experience playing at Herkimer County Community College and is a very good athlete.
In addition, freshman midfielder Alex Minsker (Brewster) looks to make an early splash. According to Parker, Minsker may be the most skilled player on the team, but is relatively small and will have to adapt to the physical side of the game.
The Bears are scheduled to play a challenging slate of non-conference games, including a Sept. 11 showdown against St. Joseph’s, an NCAA Tournament qualifier last season. Potsdam opens the season with a road trip to Pennsylvania to take on Scranton (Sept. 4) and King’s (Sept. 5).
With six straight contests on the road to start the season, the Bears close out their season with seven of their final 11 matches at home. The team begins its home and conference slates against Geneseo on Sept. 24.
According to Parker and assistant coach Mark Misiak, Potsdam’s scheduled opponents were a combined 24 games over .500 in 2009.
One of the team’s goals, Parker said, is to win two of three games against local opponents Canton (Sept. 15), St. Lawrence (Sept. 28) and Clarkson (Oct. 19). Another is to qualify for the SUNYAC Tournament, which includes the top six teams in regular season play.
In addition, the team has set several academic and all-conference aspirations, Parker said.
The first-year coach is optimistic about his team’s chances of making the SUNYAC Tournament for the first time in more than 10 years. But he knows it’s up to the team.
“We need to beat the teams we need to beat, and then probably get a few results against teams that are maybe more talented than us,” Parker said, “but in soccer, the better team doesn’t always win.”