With four games remaining in last year’s regular season, Head Coach Chris Norris shifted then junior Jeremy Harris from the midfield to one of the College of William and Mary’s four starting defensive positions to strengthen a shaky back line. The adjustment solidified the College’s defense, which finished the season allowing more than one goal in only a single game throughout the Tribe’s final seven contests.
Two key units of that defense, senior left back Roger Bothe and junior goalkeeper Andrew McAdams, are captains of this year’s squad, which returns 10 of 11 starters and 22 of 24 players from a team that notched an 11-7-3 (6-4-1 CAA) record and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament. The NCAA tourney trip was the first for the Tribe since 2002, and ended in dramatic fashion against no. 1 Wake Forest University with a 1-0 overtime defeat to the most potent offense in the NCAA.
“We had reached a point in our program where none of the players who were on the roster had been to the NCAA tournament,” Norris said. “To this year’s squad, the NCAA tournament is not this thing that is out there in the atmosphere somewhere. Now it is more of an expectation to get back there as opposed to something that is the holy grail.”
Despite the heartbreaking loss to Wake Forest, this season’s team is set to be one of the best in the CAA, entering the year third in the league’s coaches’ poll.
Led by preseason All-CAA forward senior Andrew Hoxie, who finished last year with a team-high 10 goals, the College had the highest scoring offense in the CAA last season, averaging 1.71 goals a game. Next to Hoxie, expect to see junior Alan Koger, who recorded eight goals in only six starts. Junior forwards Ryan Snyder and Jimmy Carroll, both recovered from an injury-plagued 2008 season, will provide support up front.
In the midfield, the graduation of third team All-CAA member Doug McBride leaves a void to fill. The most likely candidate to take McBride’s slot is junior Ian Stowe, who started in 16 of 21 games in 2008, registering a pair of assists. Stowe will team with junior Nat Baako, who will look to better his six goals and six assists from last season and repeat as a first-team All-CAA honoree. Baako was able to take on more of an attacking role last year thanks to McBride’s strong defense, a role Norris hopes Baako can maintain this season.
“Anytime you have someone that can produce out of the midfield like [Baako], we don’t really want to stifle that and ask him to play in a more defensive role,” Norris said. “If it appears that we can’t get by with the players that we are going to use to fill Doug’s role, we know that Nat can do that job, but we would prefer to keep him in a more advanced position.”
Senior Price Thomas will remain on the left side of the midfield where he will continue his role as the College’s flashy leader in assists (six) while possessing the speed to add to his four-goal mark of a season ago.
Defensively, Bothe, a preseason All-CAA honoree, will line up with Harris, McAdams and junior center-backs Mike DiNuzzo and Nick Orozco. DiNuzzo, Orozco and Bothe have started every match of the last two years together on the backline. With last year’s late addition of Harris, the group will look to improve it’s rank of eighth in the CAA in goals against average (1.43 per game) and continue its late season pressure.
The Tribe opens the season on a five-game road swing starting Tuesday when the team travels to Winston-Salem, N.C. to take on Wake Forest. After last season’s tough finish, this year’s squad is ready to send a message.
“We are out gunning for them,” Bothe said. “We want to win. We want to prove our worth. Everyone is a little more motivated. It’s not just another game for us.”
The first opportunity to see the College at home is Sept. 23 against the University of Richmond.