Sept. 4, 1997
1997 Season Outlook
Cal Moves Into The Fast Lane
After achieving the national recognition that comes along with a Top 10 ranking, a conference title and an NCAA Tournament berth, the Cal men's soccer team hopes to stay in the spotlight for the 1997 season. With 10 of 11 starters returning, plus a top recruiting class, head coach Mark Mallon and his Golden Bears believe they will be battling for a national championship.
"Last year's team was an underdog and expectations were not that high," Mallon said. "The team developed over the season and started to look at itself in a different light. The experience that the returners gained last season is invaluable and will be instrumental in leading Cal to success in '97."
Mallon hardly seems to be able to contain his excitement over the Bears potential. Although Cal's appearance in the NCAA Tournament last year was its first since 1986, he believes it was just the start of what will be many more trips to the national playoffs. In fact, Mallon won't be satisfied with just an NCAA invitation; he fully expects the Bears to make a long run through the field.
The returners gained a lot of experience last season and comprise one of the most talented teams Mallon has headed as the Bears figure to rank in the Top 15 in the preseason polls. But with the higher expectations comes the added pressure from knowing that Cal will no longer be an underdog. Believing his players are up to the challenge, Mallon refers to his unit of 16 letterwinners and 13 newcomers as " a strong team -- mentally, physically, technically, and in every other way."
Despite playing the fifth toughest schedule in Division I, Cal surpassed all preseason projections in 1996 with a record of 12-7-2 overall and a Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Mountain Division conference title. In contests against Top 25 teams last season, Cal dominated the competition. The Bears defeated UCLA, which ended its '96 campaign ranked No. 2 (2-1 OT) on a game-winner by Adam Hunter. The Bears also handed losses to No. 8 Santa Clara (1-0) and No. 13 Clemson (3-1). In what could be referred to as the biggest upset in '96 league play, Cal defeated the nation's No. 1-rated team, Washington, 1-0.
Cal will miss the play of last year's team MVP and All-Mountain Pacific Sports Federation first team selection Steve Rullo (6 goals, 5 assists) and forward Peyton Leeke, who led the team with seven goals. But with the core of the '96 team back on the field along with a highly touted recruiting class, the Bears expect to continue in the forefront of collegiate soccer. Senior captains Jason Young and Mike Haralambakis, along with with senior All-MPSF selection Adam Hunter, will lead the way. Mallon feels that the returning players will blend well with the incoming recruits to provide a combination that will battle for a championship.
"Last year's achievements were due to the fact that the older and younger players integrated well together," said Mallon, who enters his fifth season at Cal. "There were no attitudes. I expect much of the same from the this year's team. We will have balance, speed, technical ability and will be solid on defense. I am looking forward to a very successful and exciting season."
ON THE ATTACK
"As long as Jason remains healthy, fit and mentally ready, he will be a primary contributor in Cal's bid for postseason action," Mallon said.
The ability to generate goals should be taken care of by Adam Hunter and junior forward Ryan Fitzpatrick. Hunter developed into an explosive player last season and returns to the front again in '97. He scored six goals and racked up eight assists to lead Cal in scoring last season with 20 points. Fitzpatrick (6 goals) is the Bears most efficient scorer from last year's team with an average of only 2.83 shots per goal. Also a sprinter for the Cal track team in the 100- and 200-meter dash, he is a speedster and a dramatic finisher.
"Adam will create a lot of scoring opportunites," Mallon said. "Ryan will net some goals for the team. Our plan is for the midfielders to get forward into the attack as well. When we have restarts, we will look for guys from the back to come forward and be a force.
"To win a national championship we have to score goals. If we can take care of that, we will be well on our way to the best season ever in Cal history."
Junior Matt Newmark (2 goals), one of the most outstanding athletes on the team, will come forward from his defensive role to add to the offensive attack. He launched the game-winner last season against Stanford Oct. 20.
Sophomore J.V. Ganal (4 goals, 2 assists) is an attacking midfielder who has shown the ability to net goals. Junior Raul Ornelas (1 assist) will move from the midfield into a forward spot for the Bears this season. Sophomore Juan Romero should also contribute to Cal's offensive rotation.
Freshmen Kendall Simmonds and Austin Ripmaster's speed and ability to score goals will add a punch to Cal's offense. Other players in contention for the forward positions are newcomers Justin Le Blanc, Josh McAdam and Derek Jostad.
Sophomore Justin Bell (3 goals, 1 assist) garnered the opportunity to start in '96 when Young went down with a pulled muscle and had a solid freshman season. An outside midfielder for Cal, he made the all-tournament team at the Clemson Invitational last year.
Also playing in the midfield for the Bears will be sophomore John Macdonald (3 assists), who is considered to be the team's "spark plug."
"John is an excellent decision maker with the ball," Mallon said. "I expect his scoring average to go up this season."
Junior John Beck should figure in to Cal's midfield action right from the start. A transfer from Brown University, Beck returns to action as an attacking midfielder after a one-year hiatus.
Mallon speaks highly of Beck.
"John could prove to be one of the nation's premier players in the midfield. He has great technical ability and vision. We are fortunate to have him in a Cal uniform."
Jason Marasigan and Antonio Morales, redshirts last fall, could contend for playing time in the midfield.
"Timmy is probably the most unheralded player on the Cal team as far as honors and awards go," said Mallon. "He has terrrific speed and is a great man marker. We will count on him to lead the defense."
Incoming sophomore Derrick Dyslin is also expected to be an anchor on defense. Dyslin, a transfer to Cal, was All-Colonial Conference at the Richmond last fall, where he led a defense that held opponents to just 1.2 goals per game. Dyslin also has tremendous quickness and is regarded as one of the best marking backs in the nation.
Haralambakis will be called upon to lead the team both on and off the field. A level headed player, his primary responsibility as a defensive midfielder will be to organize the backfield.
Junior Brandon Moggio enters the season on a roll after being selected as one of two Bears to play in the prestigious Adidas summer league (Doug Brooks was the other). A defensive stopper, Moggio is also great in the air and will be looked to for leadership.
"Brandon is huge defensively, but also has the endurance to get forward and should contribute on the attack," said Mallon.
All-MPSF honorable mention selection Chris Sawicki will return for his sophomore season as Cal's sweeper. Mallon regards Sawicki as a calm and steady player who offers consistency to the backfield.
Joining the defense will be incoming freshman Ramiro Arrendondo. According to Mallon, Arrendondo has great vision and is technically gifted. He will be an immediate asset to the Bears as a midfield defender.
Sophomores Chap Early and Doug Juday will definitely get playing time, although the preseason will determine whether they will be starters. Freshmen Garret Jansma, Gene Lee, Leo Krupnik, and Seth Simchowitz have potential and should see some action as well.
IN THE GOAL
"Doug is one of the main reasons why we had such success last year," Mallon said. "He is a leading force and a legitimate candidate for collegiate All-America honors."
Cal's blend of youth and experience could prove to be a deadly combination for opponents. The Bears are focused and contain a blend of age, experience, talent and mental toughness that could lead them far in their pursuit of a national title.
"Balance is the key for our success this season," Mallon remarked. "If the team develops a rhythm of consistency, there will be no limits to its success."
The season will kick off on the Berkeley campus with the first three matches of the season being played at Witter Field. The Bears have matches scheduled against a number of quality teams this season, as the Bears face preseason Top 20 teams Cal State Fullerton, Harvard, Indiana and Portland. Tough matches will also be played against Brown and Rhode Island, as Cal once again encounters one of the toughest schedules in Division I. Within the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, Cal faces perennial power Washington which holds a No. 4 preseason ranking.
Mallon feels the teams' ultimate goal, NCAA champions, is within their grasp.
"Out of 200 Division 1 soccer teams, 32 will make the tourney," said Mallon. "Four of those will be on television ... with 25,000 fans in attendance. Only one team will bring home the national championship. With the amount of talent and potential we have on this Cal team, there is no reason why we can't be the one."