Aug. 7, 2007
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern's regular-season opener is still weeks away, but the Wildcat men's soccer program is already making headlines and will no doubt have a target on its back in 2007. The 'Cats begin the season ranked No. 14 in the NSCAA/adidas poll and No. 20 in the preseason College Soccer News top 30 poll. And for the second-straight year, head coach Tim Lenahan's incoming class is ranked 21st overall.
The Wildcats are one of only two Big Ten programs ranked among the top 30 in the preseason poll. This marks the second time in three years the Wildcats have been in the national rankings after starting the 2005 campaign ranked 17th. Ditto for the recruiting classes as the Wildcats also are one of only two conference teams ranked in the top 35.
"We are very excited about this incoming class," Lenahan said. "Much of the credit certainly goes to (Villanova assistant coach and former Northwestern assistant) Tom Carlin who was instrumental in recruiting this class. The other group that deserves credit is our current players. They are the guys who really did a great job selling the vision of who we are as a program."
Northwestern returns seven starters from last year's squad that won 14 games on its way to the NCAA quarterfinals. Senior midfielder David Roth is the team's leading returning scorer with eight goals and five assists last season and will be the focus of Northwestern's offensive attack, at least in the early going. Also back is sophomore Carl Pett (1g, 9a), a 2006 Second-Team All-Big Ten and All-Freshman selection, who had a breakout season last year and should also contribute to the attack.
"While being ranked in the preseason is nice and is always good to be recognized by the media, we know it is the end of the season that matters," added Lenahan. "We hope to improve on those expectations by years end."
Unlike last season, NU's strength at the start will be its midfield and defense with returnees Matt Witt, Drew Ratner and Mark Blades (2006 Big Ten All-Freshman Team) who are back to give Northwestern a very competitive backline. Will Briley also returns between the pipes, giving the Wildcats valuable experience and athleticism in goal.
This year's recruiting class consists of Piero Bellizzi (Rye, N.Y./Rye), Jason Drews (Downers Grove, Ill./Downers Grove), Matt Eliason (Lombard, Ill./Glenbard East), Pat Gibson (Westerville, Ohio/Westerville North), Jack Hillgard (Lombard, Ill./Benet Academy), Jonathan Kammo (Naperville, Ill./Nequa Valley), Drew Kotler (Wynnewood, Pa./Lower Merion), Cody Stanley (Lansing, Ill./Mt. Carmel) and Lucas Swertloff (Brooklyn, N.Y./Midwood).
The Wildcats begin the regular-season Aug. 31 when they host the fifth annual Lakeside Classic in Evanston.