Eyes on ‘Elite’ expectations

Men’s soccer looks to build on deep playoff run

BY CORY BURRELL
SPORTS EDITOR

Head coach Matt Pivirotto said that desperation was key to the men’s soccer team’s outstanding season last year. This season, the Royals will need to reclaim that same emotion in a different way this season.

“We want that desperation,” Pivirotto said. “I think it’s going to be a different avenue to get it from the boys because of their experience last year.”

Scranton’s men’s soccer team will look to build off last year’s stunning Elite Eight run as the Royals head into the 2013 season.

Scranton put together its first winning season since 2009 last year, going 17-3-2. The Royals continued their success in the postseason. Despite losing to rival Susquehanna University 1-0 in the Landmark Conference Championship, Scranton earned a NCAA tournament berth and won three games, reaching the Elite Eight. It was Scranton’s first appearance in the national tournament since 1993 and its first tournament win since 1990.

Pivirotto said the determination shown by last year’s upperclassmen fueled the Royals’ breakthrough season.

“It was a desperate group of upperclassmen that suffered through some tough times with the program and really made it a goal to go out in the best possible way,” Pivirotto said. “I don’t think they anticipated an Elite Eight, and quite honestly I don’t think anybody did. But as the season progressed last year we kept getting wins against some quality teams and getting some good results. The chemistry developed, our young players last year did a great job. It just kind of carried the momentum throughout the season.”

Pivirotto said this year’s team has a “quiet confidence” in itself, but that it still has reasons and goals to reclaim that level of desperation again.

“They loved the hunger from last year,” Pivirotto said. “We didn’t win our conference. That’s the desperation we are looking for … We feel that our experience last year will help us be more prepared to handle the conference tournament and be ready to compete as a playoff team. That’s our ambition.”

One way the team is looking to reach its goals is with a retooled offense. The Royals averaged 2.18 goals a game last year and ranked among the top 50 offenses in the nation in several statistics, including total goals and total assists. Pivirotto said the tweaked attacking system is more aggressive and should get more production out of the wing players.

“Our wingers are playing a little bit higher up,” Pivirotto said. “Last year we played a little more of defensive, counterattacking style. So far, it [the new offense] has been doing OK. We’re still looking to get certain production out of the wing positions, but we’ve been relatively happy.”

The Royals are looking to transition its younger players into significant roles alongside the returning players. The core of last season’s group, including third-team All-American midfielder Bill McGuiness, remains, but three first-year players are also starting for the Royals.

Matthew Busch and Patrick Codispoti help solidify a defense that allowed less than a goal a game last season, while Eric Hintz has replaced outgoing senior James Dillon as the Royals’ new goalkeeper. Michael Bergen and Tim DiBesceglie, who are also first years, appeared in every game off the bench for the Royals as well.
Pivirotto said the new players are acclimating well to the collegiate game.

“Nothing helps a younger player coming into a team like ours more than game experience and trying to build their confidence,” Pivirotto said. “For five freshmen to be competing on our team and playing valuable minutes for us with such a veteran group is praise to them, but it’ll be important for them to continue to progress throughout the season.”

The Royals were ranked 10th in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America preseason poll. They were also picked as the favorite to win the Landmark Conference in the conference preseason coach poll.

The Royals are working to live up to these high preseason expectations so far. Scranton started the season with a 1-0-2 record. After starting the season with a pair of draws, the Royals claimed their first win of the season Saturday 2-1 against St. John Fisher’s College. McGuiness scored both of Scranton’s goals.

The Royals next game is on the road at 4:30 p.m. Saturday against Johns Hopkins University. The Royals’ conference schedule will begin Sept. 28 with a road game against Juniata College.

Pivirotto said his goal is to keep the team focused on their main goals and continue to improve.

“One of the main objectives of our team is what we called progressing our culture within the team and not sitting in on complacency,” Pivirotto said. “Our goal is always to be one of the top teams in the Landmark Conference and to put ourselves in a position to win the Landmark Conference.”

Contact the writer: cory.burrell@scranton.edu

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